Wright talks right on cricket, coaching and scholarships
By Daniel Thimmayya | ENS | Published: 29th October 2012 08:52 AM |
When John Wright became the Indian cricket team’s coach in 2000, it’s safe to say that a lot of people were unhappy that a foreigner was appointed. “I think all that changed when India beat Australia in that test match at Eden Gardens, I reckon,” says the cricketer-turned-coach with a grin. “Looking back, I think it was easy for the BCCI to call me up then because it wasn’t easy to find an overseas coach with almost no baggage,” he laughs, “That was me back then,” adds the 58-year-old. Wright is the man credited with having shaped some of India’s most iconic cricket players, including Virendar Sehwag, Gautham Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan and brought out the captain in Sourav Ganguly. He was in the city to promote Southern Institute of Technology’s scholarships offered in his name to help students from the subcontinent excel in sports and academics down under.
Looking back on the five years that he spent with Dada’s Team India, Wright says that he cherishes the individuals that he came to know, as much as the cricketers, “Sourav and Rahul are very dear friends and I always enjoy catching up with them. I’m hoping to swing by Kolkata to check in on Sourav this time,” he reveals. “The thing about him is that he’s a lot like me,” he adds. This is an association that might just rub off in next year’s IPL as Wright reveals that talks are on with the Pune Warriors India to see if he can assist them in some capacity, “I’ve just had a shoulder surgery and it’s not something I’d recommend for anyone,” he says lightly, “But I’m almost back to complete fitness and hopefull we can get the game going soon.”
Though his recent ouster from the position of coach of the Kiwi team is something he admits to having been “messy”, he believes that he made much harder decisions with the Indian team than he ever did with New Zealand. “Watching Srinath retire was one. Having to leave Laxman out of the 2003 world cup squad ... Now THAT was hard for me,” he reveals. But one decision he never made despite the pressure was to drop Sachin Tendulkar, when he was going through one of his infamously lean patches, “There were so many people who kept saying he was mucking up. But I’d just look at the numbers and say ‘hold on’, we can’t leave this guy out’,” he says. Needless to say, that really upped his popularity rating with cricket fans in India.
All set to tour the country to promote SIT’s courses and scholarships, Wright recalls that the last time he was here was when New Zealand made it to the semifinals of the Cricket World Cup, “I’ll be honest, we played a really bad game. But, for me, if it wasn’t New Zealand picking up the cup, it just had to be India,” he says with a big grin. It was almost like catching the one that got away in 2003 (India lost in the final to Australia), finally in 2011. So what’s next? “Coaching and cricket,” he says readily, “There are times when you’re just hoping that the phone will ring, you know?”