"Dressing-rooms are not churches", says John Wright, former India coach, dismissing Sunil Gavaskar's claim that he didn't renew his contract because he was abused by Indian players.
Gavaskar, who was batting consultant with the Indian team towards the end of Wright's four-year tenure as the coach, had written in a column that the players abused Wright. "If it happened, it was done in Hindi and behind my back, which is exactly what I would have expected," Wright says in his just-published book John Wright's Indian Summers. "When they trooped in after a sloppy session, I didn't pat them on the back and say 'well done lads'. I asked them where the bloody effort was. If some of them called me a grumpy old bastard when I left them to think about it, so what? It wasn't beach cricket, and dressing-rooms aren't churches."
Gavaskar had claimed in his column in May 2005 that "One of the things that may have made up John's [Wright's] mind not to renew his contract could have been the way some players treated him in the last year. He was told off and sworn at by some players."
Wright said he always encouraged the boys to be honest and upfront. "If a player thought I was stuffing up, he had every right to say so, either in private or in front of the team. I wasn't backward in letting them know what I thought of their performances, and I had no problem with them doing the same to me."
He says his intention was to create an honest and open environment where everyone could speak their minds without any fear. "Most disagreements tended to be one-on-one behind closed doors, but if hard things had to be said in front of the entire group, so be it. We wanted an open and honest environment, and you only get that if everyone feels they can speak their mind without being jumped on and without people getting precious and taking offence."
Wright has also rubbished criticism that he was too soft with players. "From time to time outsiders who read too much into my public persona suggested that maybe I was too soft for the job, but I don't think that view held sway on the other side of the dressing-room."
The sweet-sour relationship Wright enjoyed with Sourav Ganguly, the former Indian captain, comes through in the book with Wright acknowledging that this relationship was the subject of "as much media speculation and gossip as a Bollywood marriage. And like any marriage, there was a honeymoon period, then reality set in and we settled down for the long haul."
Ganguly's "high-handedness" often annoyed Wright but he also secretly admired his "rebellious streak". "His high-handedness often annoyed me, but I secretly admired his rebellious streak because it gave the team some pepper and it got up opposition noses, most famously Steve Waugh's."
Talking about Ganguly's penchant to rub the authority the wrong way, Wright says he had made it a "habit of getting offside with match referees". "He and I have probably spent more time in disciplinary hearings than any other captain and coach. It must have been a combination of my flawed messages and Ganguly's blithe refusal to take the slightest notice of what anyone told him to do."
Wright says he began with the basics as far as dealing with Ganguly was concerned. "I thought I could help him tactically, but I began with the basics, suggesting that he get a new watch as it was important the captain was on time."
But there were issues on which Wright and Ganguly completely agreed. "The players had grown up in a culture of seniors and juniors. Ganguly and I were as one on this: it had to change. He was determined to create a new culture and did an admirable job of making the younger players feel that they belonged."
Wright also credited Ganguly for giving the youngsters in the team the "licence to bite and snarl and set a maverick and defiant tone". "He didn't give a stuff about convention, other people's expectations, niceties or officialdom - especially match referees. On the face of it, we weren't a natural fit.
"It was never going to be sweetness and light, but in the end the issues that divided us - and there were a few - were insubstantial compared to the cause in which we were united: to create a new team culture and give the most passionate nation in the world the team they deserved."