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Dalmiya puts coach Wright on notice

Calcutta: Sixteen months after winning the Board presidency on the accountability-ticket, Jagmohan Dalmiya made his first real move on that front: He effectively put coach John Wright on notice.

Wright, a former New Zealand captain, has been around for 26 months and his contract will be up for renewal after the February 8-March 25 World Cup.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, Dalmiya strongly indicated that Wright’s continuance would almost entirely depend on India’s performance in the tournament. This was conveyed during a pre-World Cup brainstorming session in the city on Sunday.

There was a clear message for the players, too: Stay focussed and qualify for the Super Six.

Though captain Sourav Ganguly, physio Andrew Leipus and trainer Adrian le Roux were also present, vice-captain Rahul Dravid couldn’t make it after a mix-up over flights from Bangalore.

Dalmiya, one understands, expressed “acute dismay” at India’s appalling show during the just-ended tour of New Zealand and felt Wright ought to have provided “better inputs.”

The Indians, it may be recalled, were whipped both in the Tests and ODIs — 0-2 in the former, 2-5 in the latter.

However, the president didn’t dwell on that “nightmare” alone and asked both the captain and coach to present the plan of action once the squad landed in South Africa on Wednesday.

[India’s opening Pool A match, against Holland, is on February 12.]

Dalmiya’s message for the players took the form of banning the company of wives and/or children till India qualified for the Super Six.

The president, in fact, has taken a leaf out of the Pakistan supremo, Lt General Tauqir Zia’s book: Earlier this month, the Pakistan Cricket Board announced a similar ban.

“Such permission is usually taken for granted… As it turns out, though, Dalmiya acted before anybody sought the Board’s okay,” is how a well-placed source put it.

Even after qualification, permission is likely to be accorded on a case-by-case basis.

Significantly, the players have been barred from interacting with and shooting for individual sponsors. It’s not clear, however, whether that will be enforced (in full) during the pool-stage of the tournament only.

Surprisingly, there will be restrictions on dealing with the Media, too, and it’s disappointing that the Fourth Estate has being bracketed with personal sponsors. Surely, the odd quote and soundbytes can’t be a potential distraction and Media manager Amrit Mathur must be allowed to use discretion.

Meanwhile, in wanting to lift the players’ morale, the Board has decided to avail the services of hot-shot sports psychologist Sandy Gordon. It’s a nice move, yes, but how effective will limited interaction be'

The Perth-based Gordon, who regularly works with the Australian team, will have a “couple of sessions” with Sourav and Co. just before India’s opening game.

At the moment, though, there are no plans to engage him during the World Cup itself. “Much will probably depend on how the players feel,” the source added.

The Indians have, in the past, had sessions with desi motivators, but haven’t (collectively, at least) been exposed to anybody in Gordon’s league.

Incidentally, Dalmiya has authorised Wright to “finalise details.” That’s very much in keeping with the carrot-and-stick policy often adopted by the president.

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