Durban: The players arenít the only ones under pressure, the heat gets to the coach as well. It becomes more difficult if a coach is to be judged on how his team fares in the World Cup. John Wright, then, is under considerable pressure.
Despite demands on time, though, Wright spoke to The Telegraph the other evening for half-an-hour. While he has made a difference to Team India, Wright indicated he may not be inclined to seek an extension (his contract ends in March) if Sourav Ganguly and Co. donít earn high marks in the World Cup.
The following are excerpts
On 27 months as the India coach
Whatever the past, Iíve been focussing on this week for some time... Itís one of the biggest weeks ever for Indian cricket. Weíve been getting a lot of advice from different quarters, but itís important to keep a perspective on things.
On Indiaís non-performance in New Zealand, the last engagement before the World Cup
It hurt, more so as I wanted New Zealanders to see the quality of the team I was involved with... Yet, we never got runs, be it in the Tests or the ODIs. We ought to have fought harder but, fortunately, weíve been able to put those six weeks behind us.
On whether some of the ďadvice,Ē in recent times, has been unsolicited and that much of the criticism unwarranted
Goes with the territory, doesnít it' (After a pause) I think my employers (the BCCI) and the fans, who remain so passionate, have been fair... Wins and losses will happen and I also accept there must be accountability... Criticism isnít a problem, a lack of effort is. I expect a fight to the finish in every game, I also expect high intensity at nets... (Pauses again) I accept there will be some controversy, that some people may still say Iím a foreigner-coach... Fact is, I've done the best I could.
On whether, after 27 months, he regards himself a foreigner-coach
But, I am... Iíve got a much better grasp of things in Indian cricket, Iím more into Indian cricket... However, I remain a foreigner and some continue to think a foreigner shouldnít be coaching the national team.
On the nucleus remaining the same (from end 2000 till now)
I may not have got everything right, but Iíve done my best... Obviously, irrespective of the set of players, there will be occasions when a result will throw up questions: Was the preparation good enough' Was the intensity of the desired level' Having said that, such questions shouldnít come from the coach only ó even the players must ask exactly the same if the showing hasnít been good. Iíve been getting the team to make presentations and, so, everybody has a role in the planning besides the execution.
On players repeating mistakes
(Grins) I try not to get emotional... If I do, I could react the wrong way... Of course, itís hugely disappointing because, then, the player in question is consistently not contributing to the larger game plan. I appreciate that players must play their own way, but should do so according to the situation. No one, after all, can play in a vacuum. (After a pause) I have, at times, made it plain that enough is enough.
On the key attributes for him: Passion and commitment
Weíve got to be ruthless. If the hunger and commitment isnít there, then the door must be opened for others. Having the passion and whatever is fine, but the job must still be done in the middle. As Iíve said, the team must fight... Thatís what I want and, believe me, I hate surrender. (After a pause) I think we lost some of our hunger after winning the Chennai Test and taking that series (against the West Indies)... Yes, I realise that the players go through pressure situations at different times in their career, that thereís a time for commercial opportunities...
On whether the report about his having been sounded out to coach New Zealand, while the team wasnít doing well in New Zealand itself, embarrassed him
I donít know who concocted that... Nobody approached me and the question to be asked is: Why should New Zealand look at me or somebody else when they already have a coach (Denis Aberhart) who is doing well' That report was a complete fabrication.
On whether BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiyaís straight talking on the eve of the teamís departure for the World Cup unsettled him
No... Heís a straight-shooter and Iíve always maintained I will be accountable. Anybody in any position is accountable... Iím paid to get results and the bottomline is that our performance in New Zealand wasnít good enough... So, the accountability bit hasnít ever been a problem with me. But, yes, itís terribly frustrating when Iíve done everything I could and the team still plays poorly... Equally, there could be occasions when the team has been in a spot of bother and somebody produces a blinder... Goes with the job, I suppose.
On being aware that, essentially, he will be judged on the World Cup performance
Itís fine with me... My contract is till the end of the tournament and, if I donít get the results, I wonít have a problem with somebody taking my place. Twenty-seven months ago, I said Iím privileged to coach India. That hasnít changed.
On whether he will be game for an extension
(Smiles) Letís see how the World Cup goes... If we donít progress, I may not have to make up my mind... Iím not going to hang around for the coachís job... I wouldnít want it if the team doesnít move from B to A or A-1 from A... In any case, once the tournament gets over, there will be an opportunity for both the BCCI and I to undertake a review. (After a pause) Iíll have a few issues to raise and, surely, the BCCI will have something to say.
On the appalling behaviour by so-called fans after the big defeat at the hands of Australia
My own belief is they were showing their frustration over what happened in New Zealand... They were waiting for... Indeed, weíve got to be accountable to the fans as well. Thereís been so much hype over the World Cup... Expectations and hype do go hand in hand.
On his behind-the-scenes contribution in getting Adrian le Roux (the physical trainer) on board and having Sandy Gordon interact with the players
Well, I was keen on a physical trainer because we needed somebody to work on an important area, an area of weakness for the team... I first met Sandy in Bangalore (at the National Cricket Academy) and felt it wouldnít be a bad idea if the players heard another voice. In any case, heís at the top in his trade... He canít change things by popping in and out, but can certainly get the players to think about something.
On whether he found his position getting Ďcompromisedí when talk arose about appointing a bowling coach
I wouldnít have a problem with the right person... Itís an area that needs to be explored, but it wonít help if somebody just comes for a week or so. The person has to be around for some time and, clearly, there must be continuity... In time, I think this area will be explored.
On whether he has specially learnt something as the India coach
That thereís enormous potential. Currently, weíre only scratching the surface.
On whether the coach should have a greater say in selection
To the extent that if somebodyís effort isnít quite there, he should be able to tell the selectors that the concerned player ó no matter how big ó should be dropped. Personally, Iíll be happy with an arrangement where a sharp message can be sent.
Finally, on the belief that he has been soft on the players
Iíve been accused of that but, look, Iíve always tried to work with the players... If you wield the stick too much, they will shut their ears and go their own way... If I had the freedom to chop and change, if somebody wasnít putting in that effort, then people would have revised their opinion.