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The Rediff Cricket Interview/John Wright

Faisal Shariff | April 10, 2004

John Wright

India coach John Wright is having a hair cut by the hotel poolside. Dusk is closing in on a hot and disappointing day for the Indian cricket team. After victories in the one-day series, and at Multan in the first Test, the New Zealander was hoping to close out the Test series in the second Test at Lahore. But a tinge of green on the wicket and complacency by his players dashed his hopes.

In an exclusive interview with Assistant Editor Faisal Shariff, Wright analyses the tour of Pakistan and discusses his future with the Indian team.

Are you happy with the results after two Tests?

I cannot be too unhappy about it, though I would have preferred a one-nil or two-nil score. We had prepared well for this [second] Test and maintained standards, but I guess things just didn't work out for us.

The first morning of the match was not such a good morning. We needed a good partnership after lunch but that didn't happen either. I am hoping that we play better in the next game. Pakistan is now a confident side and favourites for the final Test. The momentum is with them and home conditions are finally with them.

Do you reckon Rahul Dravid is repenting for opting to bat after winning the toss?

Rahul is a confident guy and I am sure his decision was a confident and positive one. Had we batted to our potential then his decision would have been justified. We had not faced Umar Gul before and he came in and bowled very well. His line and length was very good. He picked crucial wickets and we could not sustain the fury of the first two hours on the first morning. But we can't stand looking at those decisions.

But what about the rest of the Test match?

We have been getting important opening partnerships and that helped the side a lot. Dravid always comes in and hangs around for a good period. That didn't happen in this Test. Sachin [Tendulkar] was unlucky with the decision that he got in the first innings. But, then, that's cricket. We've always had big partnerships and even that didn't happen. So all our departments fell short in a way and that showed in the final result.

But I am pleased with the way that we have fielded. Our bowlers, Irfan Pathan and [Laxmipathy] Balaji, toiled hard even when the wicket did not have much to offer. I think on the third morning after Irfan Pathan picked the wickets of Inzamam-ul Haq and Yousuf Youhana, one of the other bowlers had to step up and make some more inroads.

There is a lot of talk about Akash Chopra's place in the side after Yuvraj Singh scored a hundred in the Lahore Test and Sourav Ganguly returning. What is your take on the issue?

I have always favoured specialists. But this is a one-off Test match and it will be the captain's call. The captain picks the batting order. Yuvraj Singh has also done well and you cannot sit him out.

For the next Test team, Dravid, [Sourav] Ganguly, Tendulkar and I will discuss great detail and then a decision will be made. We will pick the 12 and the captain will pick the eleven. If we cannot convince him [Ganguly], that's fine, because it is the captain's prerogative. Generally, if you are convinced about at least eight of the eleven that are playing, then they will win the game for you more often than not.      

Do you believe that Akash Chopra is the weakest link in the side? Why is he not getting the big scores?

That is the next step for Chopra. Sooner or later he will get big scores for the team. He's been around and I think he has a fair idea of what he needs to do from here on. One of the biggest reasons for our success has been the opening partnership. That is what opening is all about anyways.

What are the positives from the tour so far?

The ground fielding, to my mind, has been outstanding. The effort by the boys has stood out. The Multan Test was special for the catching. Yuvraj's run-out of Inzamam and Akash Chopra's catch were spectacular efforts. Parthiv Patel has kept well in this Test. He is developing well and I'm proud of him because he has done it after all the pressure mounted on him. 

Balaji, Pathan, Yuvraj and [Mohammad] Kaif are progressing well, which is good for the team. Murali Kartik came back well; Ramesh Powar has fitted well into the team. The unity of the team is good.

What were your thoughts on the declaration [in the first Test] with Tendulkar stranded on 194? Do you think it was a step in the right direction? Is the team is more important than the individual?

The declaration was Rahul's decision. It was not an easy declaration to make, but I guess it is just one of those calls a skipper has to take. The decision was not taken for the reason you have mentioned. There was nothing to prove to anyone. It was a decision in the interest of the team. It was a decision taken for cricketing reasons. But one thing is clear, and that is the emphasis on the team and not on an individual. And any team that goes the other way around will be treading on dangerous ground. All have to answer the call of the team. If it means changing your natural style, so be it; if it means bowling a different way, then so be it.

Do you agree that India is the second-best team in the world?

We surely have the potential to be number one. We just need to find certain players for certain areas; until then Australia is the number one team in the world. India can beat anyone in the world, but Australia can do that more consistently. I don't believe in the ranking system at all. We are only as good as our last performance. We need some fast bowling resources to be number one.

The only position to be in is the number one position; number two and three are judgement calls.

Did you believe that this series was about Indian batting against Pakistan bowling?

No. I would be nuts to believe that. Test cricket is all about getting twenty wickets. Batting is the big thing in one-day cricket. Certainly, if you look at the strength of the two sides, the comment probably sounds alright. But it would be hard on Inzamam and [Yousuf] Youhana, because they are a good batting side. You need match-winners and at this point of time we only have people who have won matches off the bat.

Does Shoaib Akhtar impress you?

Akhtar is good for Test cricket. Fast bowlers are always good for the game. Batsmen have to play out of their skins to counter him. He has not got too many wickets but the series is a long way to go. Akhtar surely has some pace that can unsettle the best. He's what you look to have in your side. We'd like to have a Shoaib Akhtar in our side.

Four years is a long time. Are you looking for a change?

Unless my employers decide otherwise I will continue with this team. My contract finishes after the ICC Champions Trophy in England this September. I will cross the bridge when I come to it. My contracts with the Board have been annual and that is how it will stay. Ever since I have been in this job there's been a lot of speculation about my longevity and who my successors will be.

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