Chennai, Feb 15 (IANS) John Wright’s return as a coach, this time of his home country New Zealand, was perhaps a logical move after the team came apart at the seams under Mark Greatbatch last winter with three consecutive ODI series defeats.
With the World Cup in the sub-continent, Wright, given his five-year experience as coach of the Indian team, was brought in to revamp a side that had one distraction too many by way of player indiscipline, besides non-performance.
Barely eight weeks into his assignment, Wright is only too well aware of the challenge before him, but preferred to take a realistic approach while making it known that he does not wield a magic wand.
On taking over, Wright brought about some changes, notably a shuffle in the batting order, but the changes did not reflect in the 2-3 loss to Pakistan at home, although there were definite signs of progress.
“It happened very quickly. I know the players with whom I am working with. When you have young players, it is some sort of honeymoon with the players.
“It is pretty tough time in the sub-continent from the results point of view. It is really important to try and help the players in performance and confidence. That is critical and obviously it comes from the results that you get.
“When you are on the field and you work with them, you try and achieve those results. From the technical point of view, at this level, changes take a long time,” said Wright at a media conference here Tuesday.
“Those things do not happen quickly. In New Zealand, we do not have the numbers. The talent there is not as big as India has. What we need to do is to make sure that we have a very sure pathway for our players who do have talent, look after them and identify them at young age of 17 to 18.
“In New Zealand, the gap between first class cricket and International cricket is wide and we need to bridge that gap with high performance programme.”
He admitted his familiarity with the conditions in India would be a positive factor in preparing the New Zealand team for the World Cup.
“It helps in some respects. As a coach, it gives me a little bit of background, but, to be honest, that is only a small thing. It is about helping the players play better cricket and in batting we got to get large totals. I will not read too much in to it,” said Wright.
He said he was only too pleased to catch up with the men in blue and he spoke at length about Zaheer Khan, India’s top strike bowler whom Wright had nurtured.
“Zaheer has done really well. I had him with me from right at the start of his career. He had learnt the importance of fitness and bowling well from just hard work.
“His injuries are facts of life. He always had huge talent, ability and strength and now, he looks to me a lot stronger. He is now very clever with what he could do with his swings.
“I imagine that he and his team-mates have taken an enormous amount of satisfaction from where he started and where he is now. It is credit to him,” Wright said.
When asked whether he would consider taking charge of Indian team again after the World Cup when the present coach Gary Kirsten quits, Wright said: “I think, as a coach it is not good to look too far ahead. I am not even thinking about anything other than this tournament.
“This is a tough coaching assignment. I am really thinking hard about New Zealand team in the World Cup. None of those things really are crossing my mind. You cannot afford to,” he replied.
On the warm-up game, Wright opined that the Kiwis needed to play well to be competitive against India, but it was an opportunity for his players to perform against stronger opponents than Ireland whom they beat in their first warm-up game last week.
“I am delighted to meet them in a friendly game. Tomorrow, India will be playing very well against us. We have to play better cricket. That is what we are just working at.
“They had a very good result the other day against the Australians. They build on that whereas this is much bigger game for us as we played against Ireland. We did something things well in that match.
“For us, it is huge opportunity. If we can perform well, it will be a great boost for our confidence. I hope the tickets are sold out for tomorrow’s match as there is a lot of interest. That is terribly good for us. We are still in the build-up stage. If we are to compete with India we really have to play some good cricket,” he said.