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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Interview > John Wright

February 14, 2003

'Our batsman are one innings away from getting back to their best', John Wright

His blue eyes and the deadpan look belie the spunk and sparkle. He has his eye on every player. He can point out a problem with Rahul Dravid's stance and at the same time spur Ashish Nehra to work more on his delivery-release. He throws balls at the boys at practice and gets them drinks in the end. And he is the last man out of the practice sessions. In a nutshell, Indian coach John Wright is the man who gives it his all when it comes to the team.

 In every dark moment he sees a dawn.

"My team has individuals who can win games against any team on their own. I would call them enigmatic. They can win games with amazing ease against tough sides and then have off-days against weak teams. We have explosive batsmen who can get runs in the first 15 overs and quality spinners who can bowl in the first 15 overs."

"From what I have seen, Australia always brings out the best in India," he tells a few Aussie journalists when asked if India enjoy a mental edge over Australia. Wright spoke to Assistant Editor Faisal Shariff in Johannesburg on the eve of India's crucial Pool A match against the world champions.      

What did India take from their disappointing opening game against Holland?

We would have certainly liked to get a few more runs. The fielding and bowling were okay as it has been for a while.

Sachin is at the top of the order and he enjoys being back in that position. He got runs and Mongia got runs at No 7. Yuvraj Singh played well under pressure. I thought the wicket was not as fast as everyone thought and the Dutchmen bowled straight. They played very intelligent cricket and did not give any width at all. It wasn't a bad performance by Holland; it was an intelligent one.

At one stage we were 114-5 and under a lot of pressure. But we managed to get it out of the way. Coming into this game against Australia, we have to play the kind of cricket we are capable of. We need our top batsmen to fire. It should be a very competitive game.

Do you think the ghosts of New Zealand tour are alive?

What is apparent if you watch India and NZ so far in the tournament is that perhaps some of the batters haven't had as much time in the middle as some other countries. I always thought we would recover a lot quicker than the NZ. We were probably more conservative in our strokeplay because we wanted runs. The boys have had lots of time in the nets. They are one innings away from being the best that we know they can be.

What was the thinking behind getting Sachin Tendulkar back at the top of the order again?

It is one of those things. Ganguly is happy opening. Sehwag has had a lot of success opening, so it is a tough decision to make. Ganguly is the skipper and he sets the batting order. It is important that your best player bats where he is comfortable if you want to win big championships. It may change again but any three of the players can bat well in the opening slots.

Has Sachin expressed any personal desire to open the batting?

No, Sachin will bat where he wants to bat. But I think that at the end of the day, he is opening and that is where
we go from here.

Nine of the Indians haven't played a World Cup before. Is the pressure of a huge tournament showing on them?

There is always pressure when you play for India and there always will be pressure when you play a big tournament. Even games against relatively inexperienced teams like Holland and Namibia can also be tough games. You have to give your best performance all the time.

What did the Indians take out of Sandy Gordon's sessions?

A lot of common sense. Sandy advised the boys but the truth is, nobody can work miracles in a day. It was just a different voice really. We discussed a lot of things and then he had individual sessions with players who were interested in having them. He worked with the Aussies when they last won the World Cup. He talked about some of the issues they had to confront and the way they went about them. It was a reminder of some of the issues he discussed in London last year.

John, the last time we spoke, you said the same team that plays Holland would play Australia. But Bangar seems to be a certainty with Ganguly saying he is the key man and the extended session he had today.

I can't comment on that as our selection meeting is pending.

Will Bangar, as all-rounder, bring in the balance you are looking for?

Either you play seven batsmen with two pace and two spin bowlers; or bring in an all-rounder who covers your options in the first 15 overs. If you have got the two opening bowlers, Sanjay can do that and still be able to fill that seventh batting spot.  Both spinners performed very well against Holland and Pakistan employed a spinner against Australians, which is interesting.

Hooper and Jayasuriya are banking heavily on their spinners. Do you think spinners have a huge role to play in this World Cup?

Quality spinners are always underrated. If you can bowl tightly then sometimes on flat wickets like the Centurion you get more wicket taking opportunities. I think if our two spinners perform well then we should do well. I don't think many sides have two quality spinners like we do. And I always believe that spinners have a part to play in one-day cricket.

Australian coach John Buchanan thinks the change in batting line-up by India could be strategy instead of an attempt to get the combination right. The opinion back home is that India is still chopping and changing in the midst of the World Cup. How would you view these different assessments?

 We think about it carefully. We are not chopping and changing. We are not experimenting. We are playing the batting order which we think can give us the best opportunity to win. In New Zealand, we tried to create a batting order under different conditions. I think you try to take your best side to win the match on the day. No enormous changes to the side.

Is Sachin going to open only for two days and then go back to number three?

It is all speculation. He is our best batsman and it is very important that he feels comfortable where he is batting. It is very important that he is placed where it is most advantageous to the team. We might change our combinations depending on where and who we are playing.


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