'I hope the Indian fans see it as a positive account'
John Wright spoke to Cricinfo about his recently-launched book and hoped that the Indian fans, who he had dedicated it to, enjoyed it.
What was the reason for writing the book?
I have a great love for Indian cricket and I hope players and people involved with Indian cricket enjoy it. When I came back to New Zealand it was extremely difficult to give a speech about Indian cricket - about the passion, the love, celebration when people go to the games. I'm always asked when I go around, `what's it like?' To explain it in a 20 minutes presentation or after-dinner speech is almost impossible. I tried to portray all that. The wonderful quality of players I worked with. When I was doing my job, I didn't say a lot of things publicly; my style was to work in the background. It's just an honest account of my adventures with the Indian cricket team.
Can you tell us a bit about what it contains?
There are chapters on the love of cricket in India, the money involved, the media, the hard roads that the players have to take to get there - some of their stories, the tours and tournaments we played ... And I hope the Indian fans, who it's dedicated to, along with my children, see it as a positive account of Indian cricket. To me it was a great privilege to be with the team and I have enormous affection for Indian cricket. Some of the people who will read it in India know what's happening there. But certainly the people who don't know about Indian cricket, they can know what a great country it is and how the people love cricket.
There seem to be some juicy bits as well ...
Obviously in any book, if you're honest, if you want to be honest as I have been, there will be one or two controversial issues. That's a natural thing of being in a competitive sporting environment. You can make a judgement only when you read the whole book. That's when you can apply the balance.
Did you ever feel that some sections in India didn't want to accept harsh realities?
That's part of any organisation anywhere in the world. For instance if you take one issue and selection is something I deal with in a chapter, I've never been a great fan of that system. I think it's hard on the selectors. I enjoyed a lot of selectors - Chandu Borde and the lot, they were good. I've met some very fine selectors and some good men and made some good friends in the selection group that I've worked with. They were doing their best but there was a lot of pressure on them because of the system and I've always maintained that. I'm not saying my view is correct but I would have thought it would be better to have someone who was fully paid, professional, covering the national team, the A team, the Under 19s etc. That's just my view - whether people agree with me or not is their prerogative.
|Picking the right people is more important than coaching. And that will never change. By and large, the selectors that I worked with did a good job|
But you have expressed that sentiment earlier haven't you?
If you go back to an interview I gave after the English series (in Wisden Asia Cricket), you'll see my opinion there. I think selection is an issue, I've always thought it needs scrutiny because my opinion as a coach is that selection is more critical than coaching. Picking the right people is more important than coaching. And that will never change. By and large, the selectors that I worked with did a good job. The more you can get better in that area, the better it is. It's not about this guy or that guy, it's about the system. I always felt that we needed a selector on tour, it would make the whole job a lot easier. But that's just my opinion. The BCCI can make its own judgements and have its own system. It's a tough job, such a big country.
Did you ever feel you could have been more outspoken?
I've never been into that. I had good relationships with the media and I've always told the various presidents - Dalmiya, Muttiah, Raj Singh, convenors of the various selection panels - about exactly what I felt. And I thought it was their business. Those conversations weren't public and neither are any of them recorded in the book but I certainly gave my views. My style is different. I suppose some people may be shocked to read my views in this publication.
One former selector said that players won't be happy if you reveal what went on in team meetings ...
They have to read the book. I don't know what he bases that opinion on. I hope the players enjoy the book, I'm sure they will. It's very positive ... my memories of all the Indian players are very positive and I hope it's reflected in this publication. India should be proud of their players and I've always had great affection for them.
Do you follow Indian cricket these days?
I follow them very closely. They've made excellent progress, I was delighted when they won in the West Indies. The efforts of Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble were excellent. Not that I saw it but I certainly read about it. The one-day series was probably a little bit of a reminder - after beating everyone. So it might not have done them much harm anyway. Impressed and optimistic with the progress that they're making and hopefully they're building on the work that Sourav Ganguly and I tried to do in the four-and-a-half years.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo