The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Toast for the team, not individuals’
- Team India coach John Wright looks back on 2003-04 and looks ahead

Silchar, May 29: It’s a well-earned rest not just for the Sourav Gangulys, but Team India coach John Wright as well. And, after a couple of weeks in England, he is back home (Christchurch) to spend “quality time” with mother Helen and his kids — Harry and Georgie.

“I did watch some County matches but, otherwise, I’ve stayed off cricket... After such a demanding season, even I need a break to recharge batteries,” Wright remarked, laughing, when contacted by The Telegraph this afternoon.

The 2003-04 season was quite extraordinary: Nine Tests, including seven overseas, and 22 ODIs both at home and away. While India did better in Tests (three wins, two defeats), the ODIs show a 10-11 scoreline, with one abandonment.

Significantly, all the Test victories were overseas — Adelaide, Multan and the series-clinching one in Rawalpindi. In fact, with some luck, we could have won in Sydney too.

“We definitely grew as a team, but it’s more important to consolidate. Therefore, 2004-05, which begins with the Asia Cup in mid-July, is going to be challenging. I’ll be seeking greater consistency and a bigger stride towards the No. 1 spot,” Wright pointed out.

Coach since November 2000, he added: “Looking back, I’m most pleased that the boys built on the confidence gained in Australia and stayed focussed in Pakistan... There was no let-up in intensity, contributing to our winning both the ODIs and Tests.”

Wright picked the first two Tests in Australia, the drawn game in Brisbane and the one in Adelaide, as having been the defining moments of last season. “Nobody gave us a chance, yet we held the upperhand in Brisbane and, then, scripted a memorable victory in Adelaide... We did lose at the MCG, but that was a hiccup...”

Pretty predictably, Wright declined to list the most memorable individual performances. “It’s not my style to place one player over the others... Rather, I endorse what (V.V.S.) Laxman emphasised not too long ago — that everybody in the XI is a potential, if not a proven, matchwinner. If I have to raise a toast, it’s for the team.”

However, he did observe that Sourav’s superb 144 in the first innings of the Brisbane Test effectively set the agenda.

Incidentally, talking of the 2003-04 gains, Wright highlighted Team India’s breaking free of the win-loss-loss chain. “Yes, Rawalpindi proved that we can wrest back the initiative and be big winners... That squandering an early-in-the-series lead isn’t the end of the story. But, as I’ve said, we need to get better.”

Wright, who is happy that the Board has scheduled two fitness-specific camps next month, is going to be in India around a fortnight before the preparatory camp (again in Bangalore, from July 3-11) for the Asia Cup. Physio Andrew Leipus will also be returning by July 3.

As of now, the fitness-specific camps are going to be managed by Team India trainer Greg King.

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