December 10, 2001

Wright: Accountability is close to the president's heart and I welcome that

John Wright is in a situation that cannot be envied for the best part. He is the coach of a cricket team that plumbs the depths of despair with alarming regularity despite having some of the most audacious talents in its ranks. The team apart, in the eyes of millions of cricket crazy fans he is answerable for every Indian loss. Only recently, Wright completed a year as coach of the Indian team. Rumours that his contract would not be extended began doing the rounds. Wright however, in his inimitable softspoken manner, appears unworried. "I do the best job I can and hope it transmits through the performance of the team," said the former Kiwi skipper and opening bat to pressmen at Ahmedabad on the eve of the second Test at Ahmedabad.

Not days ago, Wright met with Jagmohan Dalmiya, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Wright's detractors have long felt that Dalmiya's election as BCCI chief would spell the end of his tenure as Indian coach. "I had a constructive discussion with Jagmohan Dalmiya. It's always good to talk to the man in charge of Indian cricket," said Wright. He went on to add, "Accountability is close to the president's heart and I welcome that." In appointing a foreign coach, accountability was one of the things the BCCI hoped to bring in.

Another sticky area as far as coaches and captains goes is in team selection. In the past, several former Indian cricketers who have coached the team have been at loggerheads with the selectors. Wright insists that he has no such trouble. "In an ideal situation, you need input from everyone. As a captain you would like to have your eleven because when you walk out on to the field of play the final responsibility of leading the team to victory is yours," he began. "At the same time you need objectivity from the captain and the coach. When you get caught up with playing, you might lose a bit of objectivity and that's where the selectors can help," he concluded.

Digging on his experience as both cricketer and coach Wright had the following observation to make: "As a person who has led New Zealand for a period of three years I feel that the captain is more important than the coach in the process of team selection. As a coach you can either bide your time or convince the captain of your choices. I am very comfortable having the input of the selectors."

To prove his point, Wright quoted the example of the first Test against England where the inclusion of three uncapped medium pacers caused much consternation. "If you remember, there was a lot of discussion about some of the selections, especially the pace bowlers, during the last Test at Mohali. I am personally excited by the fact that we have unearthed other fast bowling talent."

The encouraging performance of youngsters like Tinu Yohannan prompted Wright to speak about the competition for team places. "Every player is in the same position, having to fight for his place in the side. When there is competition from the outside you don't want to fail too often and all are under pressure to perform, as it should be. If you notice, Zaheer Khan has taken five wickets in his last first class game and that is good. It acts as a reminder to those who are playing for India."

Going back to a point high on the agenda of the BCCI - accountability, Wright spoke of the role millions of Indian fans play in this regard. "Everyone is accountable and that is a very good thing. We owe it to the people of India who are the greatest cricket fans in the world. No one is bigger than the game and that includes the coach."

In all, Wright seems unworried by events off the field. That is completely new to Indian cricket and it is indeed reassuring that the coach is concentrating on the game.