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Wright-Lightning showing the way

Last August, New Zealand started their World Cup build-up with a tri-series in the Emerald Isles that also featured hosts Sri Lanka and India. That was followed by a five-match ODI series in Bangladesh and a tour to India to play three Tests and five ODIs. Amol Karhadkar reports.

cricket Updated: Mar 27, 2011 23:52 IST
Amol Karhadkar

Last August, New Zealand started their World Cup build-up with a tri-series in the Emerald Isles that also featured hosts Sri Lanka and India. That was followed by a five-match ODI series in Bangladesh and a tour to India to play three Tests and five ODIs.

Although their success in three series was virtually zero, considering that the World Cup was to be co-hosted by all the three countries where they played, the Kiwis couldn’t have asked for a better familiarisation run.

Except for one victory in the Dambulla tri-series, where they skittled India for 88, they couldn’t win any of the 17 matches they played, Tests and ODIs combined, in the sub-continent. As a consequence, though the core of the team got a hang of the sub-continent conditions, the team management changed overnight just ahead of the World Cup.

Just before the home series against Pakistan, their last campaign before the Cup, Mark Greatbatch was axed as coach. So was Roger Mortimer, renowned Olympic mentor who was roped in as high performance manager before the Dambulla tri-series.

In came John Wright, perhaps the most respected Kiwi in the cricket globe thanks to his successful stint as India coach in the last decade. Appointed the head coach, the former Kiwi captain roped in Allan Donald, the former South Africa pace spearhead who had guided Warwickshire, as the bowling consultant till the World Cup.

Wright and “White Lightning” together have helped turn the tide and the Kiwis find themselves in the top four. They pushed aside their comprehensive defeats against Australia and Sri Lanka with a shock win over favourites South Africa in the quarterfinals.

If their mauling of Pakistan in the league was considered a fluke, Daniel Vettori, who missed two league games due to a knee injury, helped his men bounce back against the Proteas despite being restricted to a modest total.

In the World Cup, Ross Taylor has regained his touch with the bat, Jesse Ryder has curbed his natural aggression to emerge the ideal No 3, Tim Southee has consistently taken wickets with the new ball and all-rounder Jacob Oram has found his golden touch. And they acknowledge the role played by the Donald-Wright combine.

So what exactly have Wright and Donald brought on board that has transformed a failed unit?

“John has been great for the batsmen because he has given them some clarity about how to go about their innings,” Scott Styris said recently.

“Donald has brought a wealth of experience, but the biggest thing he has brought is confidence. Tim has worked really hard with him and enjoyed his expertise,” skipper Vettori said ahead of their win against Pakistan.

Although New Zealand bowlers helping to conquer South Africa could have made Donald unpopular back home, it would only have increased his fan base globally.

His next big step will be to join Wright, who has hardly taken a wrong step till now, and help the Kiwis clear the semifinal hurdle after five failed attempts at that level. And the challenge can’t be bigger, taking on Sri Lanka on their
home turf.