| John Wright and Sachin Tendulkar during practice at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Saturday. (AFP)
Colombo, July 31: After yesterday’s workout at the SSC, John Wright asked the players to carry on with the bus and decided to wait till the kit bags were loaded on the luggage van. Then, much to everyone’s surprise, he chose not to call a hotel taxi but jumped into the driver’s cabin. “I’ll be fine... It isn’t a long ride,” he remarked, laughing in unison with the loaders and the driver. Well, only a John Wright could have done that... Later in the day, the Team India coach spoke to The Telegraph.
The following are excerpts
On his thoughts ahead of the Asia Cup final
We were rusty at the start — in Dambulla, for instance — and there was a need to increase our intensity... Things have fallen in place, since, but we’ve got to be more intense with the fielding. That’s an area we must improve.
On whether the three-month break alone brought about a below par start
Perhaps, yes... Today, though, the boys are happy to be in the final... Moreover, having played for a fortnight, they are confident... More sure about themselves.
On the significance of India’s four-run win on Tuesday (over Sri Lanka)
Look, the final is a one-off game... The past may play a role... What could help is that we didn’t lose in such a tight finish... I mean, the Sri Lankans will be mindful of that as we face-off once again. Actually, for us, it’s pretty much a similar situation — we’ve got to come off better.
[In phase I, however, India lost to Sri Lanka by 12 runs in Dambulla..]
On whether we need to learn something from that victory at the Premadasa
Yeah... We conceded quite a few ones and twos...
On Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy that evening
He made the right moves at the right time... In a tough match, that’s critical… One of the more interesting and successful moves was introducing Virender Sehwag rather early.
On whether the return of Muttiah Muralidharan and Chaminda Vaas is going to be neutralised by V.V.S. Laxman making a comeback
The balance of the Sri Lankan side will improve, yes... Let me put it this way: Both teams are going to be at full strength, a fact that should make for a terrific final. (After a pause) We aren’t worried that two key bowlers will return.
On the theme of his message to the players
That, often, finals are about minimising mistakes... So, please be disciplined... The perfect game may not be possible, but keep the mistakes to the bare minimum.
On his own emotions as India battled for the all-important bonus point versus Pakistan
(Smiles) We knew what our requirement was... Knew that if we couldn’t beat Pakistan, we at least had to get that one point... The message, of course, certainly wasn’t that we must aim for 241 and not 301, yet the boys were told never to lose sight of 241. In a tournament, you could have situations where losing a match doesn’t knock you out...
On whether, with Sanath Jayasuriya exploding, he has had to revise strategy against the Sri Lankans
Not really, because we’ve always regarded him as being somewhere at the top of the one-day pile... And, the other evening, he showed why that respect is necessary... Just when people were beginning to write him off, he produced a great hundred. In fact, he got one versus Bangladesh as well... Probably, he has been out to prove a point and cock a snook at those who appeared to have passed judgement.
On tackling Jayasuriya
We’ve got to bowl in the right areas... Be disciplined and, clearly, get him quickly... We shouldn’t give him a start.
On whether Irfan Pathan is the most promising youngster he has handled in nearly four years as the Team India coach
Definitely one of the best... Irfan has a very competitive attitude, has that never-say-die approach... He wants to be in the thick of action and, believe me, isn’t ever overawed either by the situation or by reputations. He’s proud to play for India.
On how he remains calm
(Laughs) Must I answer this one' Well, looks can be deceiving...
Finally, on whether he has also been thinking about his contract coming up for renewal
Mate, I’ve only been thinking about this Asia Cup.