| Wright feels Sachin is in his prime
Lucknow: Indian coach John Wright Thursday predicted 'a very tough' series versus Pakistan, but said his team was hungry to give the result the country wanted. He said this, even as he reiterated that Sachin Tendulkar is in his prime and any apprehension that the Little Master has lost some of his sheen is unfounded.
'We are under no illusion. There is a lot at stake and a lot of pressure. We expect it to be a very tough series,' Wright told newsmen at the K. D. Singh Babu Stadium during the Duleep Trophy match between the West Zone and North. 'We would not underestimate Pakistan, although we had defeated them on their own ground.'
The New Zealander said: 'History shows that India-Pakistan matches are tough. We are hungry to give the result the country wants and craves for.'
On a distant possibility that Pakistan may not pick their controversial paceman Shoaib Akhtar (who is set to undergo a test before selection comes up), Wright said: 'Whatever XI they pick, we will concentrate on achieving what we want. We don't mind who they pick. We will play to our potential.'
On the Sachin front, he was clear. 'Sachin is not declining. In fact, he is in his prime,' Wright said. 'Unfortunately he has had some injuries. (But) he still has got a lot of cricket left in him. He loves to play... to achieve.
'I am sure that you will be lucky enough to see him play for a long time.'
Wright denied that either skipper Sourav Ganguly or he had demanded for a particular type of wicket for the series against Pakistan. 'We have never demanded or expected any particular type of wicket. All we want is good Test match wickets,' he said.
'The typical Indian wicket is slow. The wicket should be good for Test cricket,' he added.
On a somewhat speculative note, he said he was impressed by the performance of West Zone opener Wasim Jaffer. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had also done well against South Africa, he said, while praising Parthiv Patel for 'coming back to form'. 'Parthiv has performed well. He is young and making a lot of effort to come back to the test side,' he said.
On the choices behind the stumps, Wright said Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv and Mahendra Singh Dhoni all were in with final XI potential. 'Karthik fared well against Bangladesh. Perhaps he would get a chance to play in the Indo-Pak series,' he said.
When pointed out that Pakistan cricketers would be coming battle-hardened from Australia, the coach said: 'We have to match them, particularly for the first two days or so when there would be a lot of pressure.'
On injuries to the pacemen, Wright said he hoped that Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar and Laxmipathy Balaji will play in the Duleep Trophy match beginning in Hyderabad February 27. 'We had hoped that Pathan would play here (in the West-North match). Agarkar too needs some attention,' he said. While emphasising the need for continuous monitoring of the seamers.
'In the end they have to play the match and bowl a 20-over spell. Fast bowling is a demanding occupation. We will speak to Kiran More on this,' he said.
On the performance of star players in the match here, he said all of them barring one or two were playing well. 'Yuvraj is batting well. He looks to be in good touch,' he said adding that 'we would have liked the match to go on for four days but some of the shot selection by the players were not appropriate. Application is what we require for the upcoming Indo-Pak series.'