"Dressing rooms are not churches," says the former Indian cricket coach John Wright, dismissing Sunil Gavaskar’s claim that he was abused by Indian players.
Gavaskar, who was batting consultant with the Indian team towards the end of Wright’s fouryear tenure as the coach, had written in a column that the players abused the New Zealander.
"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 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," he writes.
The normally shy ex-New Zealand captain puts it bluntly thus: "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 room aren’t churches." 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." The former cricketer 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."
The sweet-sour relationship Wright enjoyed with former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly comes through in the book with the ex-coach 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 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."