The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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I wouldn't have survived had I been soft: John Wright
- I've always kept the team's interests in mind, says coach

Calcutta: Look at any Team India photograph after a win and it will be difficult spotting the coach. That's because John Wright stays away from the camera, stays away from one-on-ones with the Media as well. However, he made an exception for The Telegraph, on Saturday, and spoke for almost half-an-hour.

The following are excerpts:

On having completed four years

It has been an interesting period' We've improved on some fronts, but need to get better in other areas. Coming from overseas, it has actually been a huge learning experience.

[Under Wright's guidance, the Indians have won 18 Tests (14 losses) and 67 ODIs (53 losses). He is, by the way, contracted till the end of this season.]

On his agenda when he took charge in mid-November 2000

First, focus on discipline, not only on the field but with punctuality and so on' Second, bring about a culture-change, wherein no one individual is bigger than the game' That the team is above everything' Third, to improve fielding and the running between wickets' It took about a year for the importance of both to sink in and I'm happy that most players have embraced the two essentials for moving forward. If I could add, in the ODIs, it's impossible to 'hide' more than one or two players.

On the pressure he has faced

I'm not complaining because the Indian fans' expectations are always going to be high' I'm comfortable with their passion.

On what he has learnt in the last four years

That I've got to remain optimistic' The value of humility' The importance of tolerance and patience.

On his approach

It's not always possible to say the things players want to hear' That's just not possible' Bottomline is I've always kept the team's interests in mind' (After a pause) People have accused me of being soft, but I wouldn't have survived this long had I been anywhere close to being so. Of course, that's not to suggest I haven't enjoyed the players' company' Indeed, I've enjoyed working with everybody and, here, I'm also referring to the Debashish Mohantys and Sairaj Bahutules' It's remarkable that every single player has been a wonderful ambassador for the country' The way they conduct themselves' The way they respond to demands from fans'

On what drives him

Getting the team to improve' If we hadn't won the last Test (and series, versus South Africa), then'

On his most satisfying moment

Quite a few' Beating Australia in the 2001 Test series, making the 2003 World Cup final' Beating Pakistan in Pakistan this year'

On his most disappointing moment

First, not putting it together on the day it mattered most ' the World Cup final' Second, not performing to expectations on the 2002-03 tour of New Zealand' Third, not being able to win last season's Test series in Australia'

On whether that New Zealand disaster hurt him the most

(After a pause) Look, every defeat is painful' Every defeat hurts' Every defeat calls for soul-searching' Yes, people in New Zealand were keen to see the team I was coaching' People called to say they had bought tickets to watch the Sachin Tendulkars' I accept the two Tests were on poor wickets, but we flopped in the ODIs as well' A coach too looks to win every match, yes, but I wasn't the only one who felt let down on that tour.

On the team falling between stools at the start of this season

I remember Geet Sethi once telling us (during a conditioning camp) that success is a dangerous enemy' That success may change the players' attitude' I endorse that fully' After Pakistan, the players went into a comfort-zone and' It took them some time to get out of it'

On not all the Test wickets at home suiting the team's strength

(Smiles) Look, even last season (when New Zealand were on tour), the wickets offered for the two Tests ' Ahmedabad and Mohali ' didn't turn' I don't know why' The pressure to win is a lot more in a two-Test series and it definitely doesn't help if the wickets don't offer assistance.

On working with Sourav Ganguly

Occasionally, we've had healthy differences, but the chemistry between us is fine' He wants to win, wears the passion on his sleeves and speaks his mind' What I like most is he stands up and doesn't require the coach to take any flak' In my opinion, the captain and vice-captain (Rahul Dravid) complement each other beautifully.

On whether Sourav will ever be able to control the passion bit and not run into trouble with Match Referees

(Laughs) You know, as New Zealand's captain, I often reacted the way Sourav does. In my time, though, there wasn't so much of TV and we didn't have Match Referees sitting as judges' Frankly, had I been in Sourav's position, I would have reacted in much the same manner when (Jacques) Kallis wasn't given out on the fourth afternoon here.

On being made to appear at disciplinary hearings

(Laughs again) Am getting used to it!

On his advice to Sourav

Take a few deep breaths and' The other day, he talked about having to play without fees if he didn't control his emotions' Well, if it comes to that, Sourav can afford to do so'

On specialists joining the support staff

It hasn't been an issue with me'

On the most special Test win

For me, it's always the last' And, so, the one at Eden the other day.

On the most special ODI win

When we won the NatWest at Lord's, in 2002, by going one better than England's 325' It was terrific' That win meant so much more as my elder son (Harry) was in the stands'

Finally, on Team India climbing to a high of No. 3 in the ICC Test rankings

The challenge is to do better' At times, however, the rankings hold no meaning' Winning the next game does.

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