At a time when New Zealand cricket was starting to show signs of getting it right, their national team coach John Wright has decided not to seek a contract extension.
What he told reporters recently is only what one expects from a thorough pro: “I think it’s important the team has plenty of time to prepare (for the World Cup). It’s important that everyone is going in the same direction. I’ve thought about this decision very carefully. It wasn’t easy. I’m satisfied with the decision. I know my philosophies and values that I’ve always maintained throughout my life in cricket and you have to be true to yourself.”
Wright gives one the impression that he hasn’t achieved a sense of fulfilment ever since he decided to end his India term in 2005. And if this is indeed true, it’s sad because his coaching expertise and work ethic deserves grand success.
Differences with New Zealand’s Director of Cricket John Buchanan have been cited in Wright’s departure and this is not surprising because they are like chalk and cheese when it comes to their approach to the job. Wright likes to keep it simple while the Australian thrives on experimentation. Remember his multi-captains theory in the Indian Premier League for Kolkata Knight Riders a few seasons ago?
The Board of Control for Cricket in India biggies should keep track of Wright’s movements because he could be the ideal man to get involved in the development of players if replacing Duncan Fletcher as India coach at this stage sounds illogical and far-fetched. The fact is, India have experienced a disappointing one year with Fletcher in the coach’s seat.
The New Zealander is not the type who will go shopping for a job, but he’ll be excited to be associated with Indian cricket again. Our country’s cricket is at a stage where it needs some wise heads on the coaching and development scene. Tournaments like the Indian Premier League may showcase a lot of talent, but where is the proper channelling and nurturing in longer, and more important form of the game? The easiest thing to do is to blame selectors for ignoring X and Y for the India A team, but there wouldn’t be too many issues in a smooth system.
However, come September and a new-look selection committee will be a welcome change.
India’s young guns on the threshold of international cricket need a man like Wright. He doesn’t have a dictatorial style, but he can be tough as players he coached during his India tenure will vouch for.
It’s not surprising to see Wright unwilling to hang on to the New Zealand job. Ten years ago, when Sourav Ganguly’s team was not coming up with ideal results for a variety of reasons, Wright told then BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya that he needed certain things for the team and after that, if it still failed, he’d be ready for the sack. Wright was viewed as a soft coach in some quarters, but at the end of his meeting with Dalmiya, the BCCI president said to him: “You’re quite tough.”
The team got a fitness trainer in Adrian Le Roux and other holes got filled on the top of a fine coach-captain combination which led to 2002 being memorable — the year in which Sourav Ganguly’s team won the NatWest Series in England, squared the Test series against Nasser Hussain’s team and achieved a series win at home against the West Indies. The 0-2 loss in New Zealand at the end of the year can be attributed to the unfair wickets that were dished out for India.
John Wright can play the perfect sound engineer for Indian cricket — to get the mix right and if needed, turn acoustic again.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor