Yet, India’s first overseas coach (who spoke to The Telegraph this evening) is himself aware that the real test hasn’t yet begun. Better still, he is determined to score a perfect-10 when that does come about.
Wright, who hasn’t been home since February (when he left to take charge of Kent’s pre-season training), should return to India in three weeks. And, straightaway, begin planning for the engagements against Australia.
While in Christchurch, Wright (who has separated from his wife) will spend time with son Harry (aged nine) and daughter Georgie (seven).
“It’s going to be my responsibility to take Harry to a cricket camp,” remarked Wright indicating he won’t mind, for once, not acting the coach.
Following are excerpts
On a successful assignment No.1 (home series versus Zimbabwe)
Success against any opposition boosts confidence but, actually, no one should get carried away... Even before Zimbabwe arrived, we were expected to beat them... The wins apart, my memories are of the runs missed and catches dropped.
Clearly, the next visitors (Australia) will be considerably tougher and, to put them under pressure, we’ll need to up our performance.
On his first five weeks as India coach
As I told you the last time we spoke, it’s been a learning experience. I’ve got to know the players; the players have been exposed to the way I operate... Generally, I’ll stick to what I said on assuming charge: That I don’t have a magic formula.
I’m happy, of course, that I’ve been able to establish a rapport with key off-the-field players (administrators and selectors, specifically), too.
On a clutch of newcomers making a handsome splash
Yes, all of them have been impressive... The batting talent, specially, is top quality. However, the bowling needs to be disciplined and far fewer catches must be put down.
On his priority ahead of the Australians’ visit (mid-February)
Look, if we are to match Australia on the field, we’ve got to start from scratch. In other words, we’ll have to match the Australians’ training. For starters, then, we’ve got to train more intensely and improve fitness.
Particular fielding drills should kill two birds with one stone: Sharpen agility and, overall, make the boys fitter. Honestly, we need to learn to field under pressure and I’ll largely be focussing on that during the conditioning camp ahead of the Australia-series.
On Anil Kumble’s absence during his opening assignment
Obviously, Anil will figure prominently in our Australia-plans... Both (physio) Andrew Leipus and I met him at a function last evening... He’s recovering, though a clear picture will only emerge after two-three weeks.
On interacting with the Bishan Bedis during the Delhi Test
I neither wish to ‘control’ all information, nor do I have all the answers. In any case, I’ve always believed one never stops learning. Bedi has been working with Sunil Joshi and Murali Kartik and, frankly, few know the nuances of spin bowling better... I’m open to interacting with as many former India players as possible.
In Rajkot, for instance, I requested Kiran More, who was around, to have a session with Vijay Dahiya... I’m the sort who wouldn’t hesitate to invite a Bedi to nets or somebody else to speak to the batsmen. I wouldn’t feel threatened. My lines of communication are always open.
On dealing with Geoff Marsh, the Board’s consultant (who arrived today to make a presentation)
We exchanged notes this morning... Geoff’s another one with experience in different capacities... I understand his brief is connected to the restructuring of cricket, in India, but I’ll have no qualms interacting with him on the game itself.
On vibes with captain Sourav Ganguly
Excellent. It does make a difference when a captain leads from the front... Sourav’s batting delighted me though, yes, I’ll get him to train more intensely as a catcher in slips!
On whether he spoke to Sourav after he went overboard with the appealing in Kanpur (inviting a one-match ban)
Briefly... If you ask me, the players must play with passion and, that day, they were very aggressive. I don’t condone what Sourav did but, as I’ve said, the passion-factor is important. As is playing hard —- within the laws.
Finally, whether he intends taking Hindi lessons
(Laughs) I’m determined to at least pick up some essential words... I’ll start once I’m back from New Zealand, which should be three weeks from now.
Prasenjit Ganguly hit 118 for Customs versus George Telegraph, while Debopam Sarkar scored 123 in Tapan Memorial’s 395 for eight versus Rangers.
Customs 284 (Prasenjit Gangult 118; Kunal Bajpayee 4/68). versus George Telegraph.
Dakshin Kalikata Sansad 314/8 (S. Guha 77, V. Gautam 54, K. Roy 40, M. Kaushal 47 n.o.; D Dutta 2/55).
Ballygunge United 305/8 in 80 ovs (Sankar Majumder 69, Shibnath samanta 59; Khagesh Chaturvedy 3/43) vs YMCA College.
Tapan Memorial 395/8 (Debopam Sarkar 123, Sanjay Pandey 82 n.o., Samir Ghosh 57, Rajib Dutta 46; Kalyan Guha 3/118) vs Rangers.
Tollygunge Agragami 166 in 58 ovs (Ambaresh Mohanty 32; Sanjay Chaubey 5/37). BNR 83/5 (Anup Das 3/46).
Sporting Union 300/8 dec. (Subhasis Das 58, Satrajit Lahiri 57, Prasanta Sinha Roy 47; Saikat Goswami 6/103). Mohunlal Club 2/1.
Matches to continue.
In fact, the left-handed Californian was a more versatile player as he struck gold with several different partners.
Two weeks away from his 36th birthday, Leach decided quite some time ago that this would be the last year of his playing career. “I’ve been through the grind 14 years and I really loved competing. I even played with the likes of Vijay Amritraj. It’s time now to move on in life,” the articulate and friendly American said during a tete-a-tete with
He has already lined up a post-retirement vocation. Inevitably, it’s something connected to tennis. He’ll be assistant coach at the University of Southern California, where his father Dick is head coach. “How can I not be linked with the game I’ve been involved with for nearly 30 years?”
And Leach has already got his first trainee. “I’m really looking forward to coaching Prakash Amritraj, Vijay’s son. I’m very excited because he is future Davis Cup material.”
The mention of Davis Cup brings about a glint in Leach’s eyes. “Davis Cup has been a fabulous experience. Wish I had played more than 10 ties.”
Congratulating friend and one-time partner Patrick McEnroe for being named the new US Davis Cup captain, Leach admitted he would love to be in that seat one day. “That would be the ultimate honour.”
Owner of 40 career titles (with a dozen different partners), Leach is the only man to have won at least one for 14 straight years. “The relationship with your partner is very important. When you have to spend so much time with one person, you have to get along well with him (point to be noted by Paes-Bhupathi),” Leach observed.
He enjoyed playing with all his partners, enjoying maximum success with fellow-American Jim Pugh (won three Grand Slam crowns with him). Leach, however, had a special word for Ellis Ferreira whom he played with in the last three years.
“I owe a lot to Ellis because he was the one who encouraged me to continue when I thought of quitting at the end of ’97,” Leach revealed. “He encouraged me a lot and helped us become a strong team in recent years.” Leach and Ferreira, both left-handers, finished No. 5 in ’98 and No. 4 in ’99. And thanks to their miraculous semi-final entry along with Paul Haarhuis-Sandon Stolle’s early exit, Leach and Ferreira will end 2000 as the world’s No. 2 team (behind the Woodies).
“I wanted to end my career on a high and I am happy that is happening here,” said Leach who rates the five-set victory over Wayne Black and Andrew Kratzmann in this year’s Australian Open final as his memorable moment. “It was a marathon lasting four hours and a quarter, and it felt good to come out a winner of such a long match even at my age,” Leach said.
Thanking Bangalore for staging a wonderful event, Leach wished India continues to support tennis and, doubles in particular with the same enthusiasm as now. “If the game receives support like this from some other countries, we won’t have to worry about the future of doubles.”
Well, the game could also do with honest and dedicated personalities like Leach.
Feeding off the support of 5,000 fans at the KSLTA Stadium this evening, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi shrugged off the challenge of born-again top seeds Rick Leach and Ellis Ferreira in an hour and 25 minutes. The 6-3, 7-5 win landed the Indians in their third world championship final in four years. For the record, Paes and Bhupathi lost both their two previous finals (1997 and ’99) in straight sets.
Testing the Indians’ vulnerability in tomorrow’s five-set final will be Donald Johnson and Piet Norval, who had a trying time conquering Swedes Simon Aspelin and Johann Landsberg 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Johnson (32) and Norval (30) have played in a world championship before with different partners, but neither has featured in the title round.
There was nothing wild about the way wild cards Paes and Bhupathi went about their job today. Playing as a team and raising their level at the first sign of a crisis, last year’s Team No. 1 raised visions of ending 2000 in grand style.
Ferreira came out guns blazing but Leach didn’t seem to have taken his miraculous ‘extension’ seriously. Bhupathi was forced to save three break-points on his opening service game, before two typically brilliant points from Paes gave the Indians a service break.
The bald Calcuttan set up break-point with a high top-spin lob which just ran away from a retreating Ferreira. Then, Paes stretched out wide on his forehand to return a decent Leach serve and hit an incredible reflex volley off his body to stun the crowd and his opponents.
A break down, Ferreira’s game disintegrated into a sorry mess. Three double-faults (he had eight in all) and a forehand error on his serve gave the Indians a second break and the first set.
The handsome South African dropped serve again early in the second set. Just when it appeared the Indians were cruising, Paes was broken at 4-2. Leach and Ferreira stepped up a gear, and Bhupathi was under pressure in the ninth game as Paes netted an easy volley at 30-all. Thankfully, the local boy rose to the occasion and came up with a couple of big serves.
As a tie-breaker looked imminent with Leach serving at 5-6, Indians went for the kill. Paes drove a forehand long on first match-point, but the Indian Express were on target next time around. A Bhupathi smash, set up by a good Paes service-return, brought about the match-point. Bhupathi then came up with a fine return and Paes hit a half-volley into the empty court to finish it off.
“After a good start, it was a true start for us in the second set and Hesh came up with the big serves on break-point,” Paes said. Bhupathi remarked they would be hard to beat if the crowd was anything like what it was today.
In the first semi-final, Johnson and Norval were sluggish at the start of all three sets, dropping serve in the third game of each. They found a way out in the first and third, failed in the second.
Playing their first match this week under natural light, the American-South African duo took a long time to adjust to the sun-and-shade effect of the covered stadium. Norval, especially, was a man without a clue as to what was happening out there. He looked tired for most of the match and came up with a high percentage of unforced errors.
Aspelin and Landsberg, the eighth-fancied team coming into the tournament, had no such adjustment to make as they had played two of their three round-robin matches early afternoon. But the Swedes lacked the fluency that had characterised their game during the three victories. With both teams struggling to get any rhythm going, it wasn’t a high-quality match — certainly not worthy of a world championship semi-final.
It was the left-handed Johnson who held the team together in the first half of the semi-final. He covered the court exceptionally well and put in enough returns to pressurise the Swedes’ serve every time they looked like establishing a wide chasm. The final set saw Norval stepping on the gas and deliver the knockout punch.
A deft forehand top-spin lob from Johnson on Landsberg’s serve gave the US-South African team the first set. In the second set, Johnson himself dropped serve to give the Swedes the decisive break in Game 11.
The final set swung wildly, Johnson losing serve and Landsberg returning the compliment right away in Game 4. It needed two terrific lobs from Norval to earn the second service-break and that carried them through to their maiden world championship final.
Johnson & Norval bt Aspelin & Landsberg 6-4, 5-7, 6-3; Paes & Bhupathi bt Leach & Ferreira 6-3, 7-5.
A point behind Todi was Kamal Wadhwa and a further stroke adrift was S.P. Arora. Anu Tripathy defended her ladies title with a score of 37 points.
Gold for Bengal
Bengal earned a gold from the men’s section of the East India boxing championships at DS (Gurudwar) Park Thursday. S. Khan (48kg) was one of three Bengal pugilists in the men’s finals. The others — Santosh Thakur (45kg) and Prabir Pal (81kg) earned silvers.
Meanwhile, Manoj Rana, of 58 GTC, was named Best Boxer (and not as published in these columns Saturday). Santosh Thakur was named the Best Loser. Manipur’s Sandhya Rani Devi was named best boxer among women and Assam’s Jennifer Danial the Best Loser.
RESULTS1. Irma La Douce Plate 1,100m: (1-3-2-5) Automatic (C. Alford) 1; Alvernia (Amil) 2; Aventura (Rabani) 3; Maid To Measure (A. Imran) 4. Not run: Calamint (4). Won by: 1-1/2; 5; Dist; (1-11). Tote: Win Rs 13; Place: 10; 19; Quinella: 26; Tanala: 51. Fav: Automatic (1). Winner trained by Vijay S.
2. Lombard Handicap 1,600m: (6-2-3-5) Ballard Lady (A. Imran) 1; The Stud (Connorton) 2; American (Rutherford) 3; Crest Star (Yasin) 4. Won by: 2-1/4; 1-1/2; 2; (1-41.3). Tote: Win Rs 21; Place: 12; 10; 18; Quinella: 16; Tanala: 89. Fav: The Stud (2). Winner trained by Daniel D.
3. Lightning Sketch Handicap 1,400m: (3-1-5-2) Kargil Soldier (Connorton) 1; Black Mane (M. Reuben) 2; Persuasion (Islam) 3; Rheinheart (Shanker) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; SH; 1-1/4; (1-27.9). Tote: Win Rs 133; Place: 24; 19; 30; Quinella: 254; Tanala: 8,969. Fav: Magnifico (4). Winner trained by J. Stephens.
4. Goldfinder Handicap 1,200m: (3-1-2-5) Royal Ruler (P. Alford) 1; Floral Path (A. P. Singh) 2; Heaven’s Blessing (Shanker) 3; Breezealla (Khalander) 4. Won by: 5-3/4; Nk; 1-1/2; (1-15.3). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 13; 20; 13; Quinella: 75; Tanala: 191. Fav: Royal Ruler (3). Winner trained by R. Alford.
5. T. N. Banerjea Cup 1,200m: (7-1-10-5) Added Asset (A. Imran) 1; Bountiful Gesture (C. Alford) 2; Arctic Fancy (Saran) 3; Ardon (Upadhya) 4. Won by: Hd; 1-1/2; 4-1/4; (1-13.7). Tote: Win Rs 22; Place: 13; 13; 36; Quinella: 24; Tanala: 540. Fav: Added Asset (7). Winner trained by Daniel D.
6. Usha Stud Calcutta Oaks 2,400m: (2-7-5-8) Alvarada (C. Alford) 1; Surfside (Ruzaan) 2; Code Word (A. Imran) 3; Tsaynen Blue (Connorton) 4. Won by: 6-1/4; 1-3/4; 2-1/4; (2-36.2). Tote: Win Rs 21; Place: 10; 13; 38; Quinella: 17; Tanala: 167. Fav: Alvarada (2). Winner trained by Vijay S.
7. Easter Parade Handicap 1,100m: (1-5-4-8) Endless Surprise (C. Alford) 1; Bird’s Empire (A. Imran) 2; Red Trident (Rutherford) 3; Cancun (Ruzaan) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; 4-3/4; 1/2; (1-7.6). Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 12; 14; 28; Quinella: 28; Tanala: 319. Fav: Endless Surprise (1).Winner trained by Daniel D.
Jackpot: Rs 3,400; (C) Rs 619.
Treble: (i) Rs 807; (ii) Rs 82.
12 noon: Silver Line 1. Winawin 2. Piabo 2.
12.30 pm: Luni Junction 1. Pass The Buck 2. Royal Partner 3.
1 pm: Chili Lady 1. Warrior Queen 2. Over The Ocean 3.
1.30 pm: Piccolina 1. Perceived Value 2. Dominant Force 3.
2 pm: Sanaga 1. Ever So Loyal 2. Princess Jo 3.
2.30 pm: Blue Blood 1. Ally McBeal 2. Fantasy 3.
3 pm: Voice Of Freedom 1. Hearts In Motion 2. Heartbreaker 3.
3.30 pm: Kenilworth 1. Millennium King 2. High Voltage 3.
4.15 pm: Six Speed 1. Star Shine 2. Lady Moura 3.
4.45 pm: Gold Berg 1. Persian Lord 2. Blusheon 3.
5.15 pm: Catch The Sun 1. Tamarinda 2. Cocktail 3.
Day’s Best: Blue Blood
Double: Sanaga & Six Speed
SATURDAY’S BANGALORE RESULTS
1. Anekal Plate 1,400m: (9-5-1) Flash First (Prakash) 1; Pink Squirrel 2; Adelante 3. Won by: 9; SH; (1-30.9). Tote: Win Rs 37; Place: 16; 20; 14; Forecast: 171; Quinella: 52; Tanala: 183 & 64. Fav: Pink Squirrel (5).
2. Topmost Cup 1,200m: (4-7-1) Royal Gladiator (M. Narredu) 1; Snow Dew 2; Star Of Gaiety 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 2-1/4; (1-17.3). Tote: Win Rs 25; Place: 12; 76; 10; Forecast: 655; Quinella: 398; Tanala: 862 & 128. Fav: Star Of Gaiety (1).
3. Premium Spirit Plate, Div-I 1,200m: (8-1/6) Royal Castle (Warren) 1; Finest Flare & Turn My Luck 2. Won by: SH; D-H; 3/4; (1-19). Tote: Win Rs 157; Place: 38; 15 (no. 1) 116; (no. 6) Forecast: 221 (8 and 1); 820 (8 and 6); Quinella: 116 (8 and 1) 680 (8 and 6); Tanala: 5,768 & 5,768. Fav: Spectacular Style (4).
4. Viduraswatha Plate 1,800m: (5-6-7) Silvanus (Appu) 1; Living Together 2; Franco Leone 3. Won by: 8-1/4; 1-1/4; (1-57.9). Tote: Win Rs 37; Place: 16; 63; 20; Forecast: 809; Quinella: 444; Tanala: 2,219 & 785. Fav: Annodomini (1).
5. Garden City Cup 2,000m: (5-6-3) Access All Areas (Kader) 1; Pas De Memories 2; Ace Academy 3. Won by: 3-1/2; 2-1/2; (2-9.6). Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 13; 16; Forecast: 20; Quinella: 15; Tanala:136 & 113. Fav: Access All Areas (5).
6. Brahmaputra Stakes 1,600m: (3-2-6) Sans Egale (Shroff) 1; Arikana 2; Celestial Gold 3. Won by: 4-1/4; 5-1/4; (1-41.9). Tote: Win Rs 28; Place: 13; 12; 14; Forecast: 38; Quienlla: 26;Tanala: 53 & 32. Fav: Arikana (2).
7. Premium Spirit Plate, Div-II 1,200m: (1-8-10) Chippo (Shafiq) 1; Ardent Blue 2; Dad’s Joy 3. Won by: 1-1/2; Nk; (1-19.3). Tote: Win Rs 72; Place: 22; 74; 74; Forecast: 2,734; Quinella: 1,530; Tanala: 20,807 & 5,945. Fav: Lance’s Pet (6).
Jackpot: Rs 15,828; (C) Rs 445.
Treble: Rs 516.