New Zealand's top-order did almost everything wrong before Daniel Vettori and Jesse Ryder launched a spirited recovery. What will India’s top-order do when their turn comes? In a freewheeling interview John Wright, the former India coach, opens up on the Indian batting, his relationship with Ganguly and the Sehwag effect. Excerpts:
Did you expect things to pan out this way in the ODIs?
Because of the wickets, if you didn’t bowl in the right areas to the likes of Sehwag and Sachin, you were going to get punished. The 3-1 scoreline wasn’t too surprising, given the momentum India have built over the last year. They’ve got such strike power in the batting, it’s amazing.
How has this Indian team come on?
I don’t think they have much to fear. I don’t think they worry too much about getting out. It’s probably a consequence of the T20 cricket that’s being played. They’re a good, exciting side. Yuvraj has really come on as a spinner, not just as a batter. He gives the captain an option after Sehwag.
Would you say Sehwag being pushed to open the batting made his career?
I have a lot of time for him. It’s one thing to open in ODIs, where it’s all in your favour. We started opening with him in England, he made 80-odd at Trent Bridge on a really green one, then he went to Australia and got 190. To be able to make that transition is very special. He’s probably tempered his game a bit from what I saw. Bowlers end up thinking, ‘Where do I bowl at this guy?’ 15 Test hundreds, two of them triples, is testament to the fact that he’s a great player.
Is that something you thought when you saw him?
Well, no. It’s the mental bit that you have to sort out there. The intensity of shot-making is so regular and precise you think he can’t keep playing like that, but he does. That’s the thrilling thing about watching Sehwag. He simplifies batting.
Would you say one of your successes is that the players don’t have a bad word for you?
It’s nice to know that. I always tried to be honest. Occasionally, I could get really grumpy! I really cared about the team and about Indian cricket, and I still do. Being the first foreigner, I was very determined. It was really the players who did it for you.
How important was your equation with Ganguly?
Sourav and I were a great mixture. We are both Cancerians. We saw things a bit differently sometimes, but together, the chemistry worked. Sourav added the arrogance, that ‘I don’t care what anyone says’ attitude. Then there was Adrian (le Roux), who got them fit and was a great back-up. Andrew (Leipus, the physio) did a fantastic job. Then you put the senior players, the Anils and the Sachins and they bought into it.
How do you see the current set-up?
I think Gary’s (Kirsten) done a great job with Paddy (Upton), they’ve got the feel right. Just the fact that they’re getting out and doing different things, is a really good thing to do because it takes your mind off cricket and you get a break.
Is it fair to say the team is reaping rewards of a process started nine years ago?
If people think that way, it’s really nice. It’s always a building block. What you need to do is take what you’ve got and take it a further. Then the next guy picks it up and moves it even further. The next thing is to constantly bringing in the next young player. That turnover is important. Yuvraj has got his opportunity now that Sourav’s gone. Someone else will get an opportunity when Rahul comes to the end of the road. You’ve got your reserve opener, the other quicks, that’s the important bit.