'The ability was always there' - John Wright
John Wright, who coached India for five years, has praised their elevation to the No. 1 spot in the ICC Test rankings. Wright, who along with former captain Sourav Ganguly brought a more professional outlook towards fitness and training and touring overseas, pinpointed the team's unity and all-round depth as key features to the pinnacle as well as the future.
"India deserves this ... not only the players and the board but also the fans," he told Daily News & Analysis. "I always knew that India has the ability to become the best Test team in the world. I'm so pleased for the players, Gary [Kirsten], Paddy [Upton] and the BCCI. I know the board is a tough task master but it is fantastic. I'm very pleased for your country. They are the best in the world and they truly understand and celebrate their cricketers' success."
Wright, a former New Zealand batsman, had a successful five-year stint as India's coach from November 2000 during which India won a historic series against Australia in 2001 at home, won in Pakistan in 2003, and also guided the team to the finals of the 2003 World Cup.
There have been many key steps to the summit for India, not least the epic 2001 home series against Australia. Wright played down the Kolkata Test of that series, which many believe instilled the belief in India that they could be the best. "The ability to bring about a turnaround was always there. The theme was to achieve team achievement as against individual achievements," he said. "There are great individual achievements but in a funny way today's achievement is greater than any of those.
"The key for India is to have potent fast bowlers. That way Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth are very important for the side. But the best thing about India is that they are not reliant on any one player. A few individuals will soon go away but every young Indian cricketer now knows that the team can be the No.1. That is the turnaround."
The lack of Tests in India's upcoming schedule could limit the duration of their No. 1 ranking, and Wright said the challenge for India would be to maintain their position. "They first have to enjoy it and then take up the challenge. In India everything is there in the system - they have the structure and the academy. Now they have to keep producing the players. I think they can stay at the No.1 spot."
Former captain Anil Kumble, writing in the Hindustan Times, said India had planned reaching the top spot two years ago. "You can imagine the feeling among all concerned now that the task has been achieved," he wrote. "Back then, we knew that in the next 18 months or so we would play almost every team in the world, either home or away. We made a conscious effort to sit down and discuss the way to the top. The team goal was simple. We were fifth in the rankings and said to ourselves: 'Let's go out there and win every series from here on, as that is the only route to the top.'"
Kumble singled out "exceptional" individual performances along the way, which he termed as "not an easy ride", that contributed to victories and hard-earned draws. "Gautam Gambhir's batting for almost two days to save the Napier Test against New Zealand, Virender Sehwag's start during the run chase at Chennai against England, Sachin and Yuvi's efforts in the same Test, Rahul, Sourav and Laxman's holding the innings together time and again - these are prime examples."