Not often does a foreign coach do rounds of Ranji Trophy games to scout for the best talent for the next IPL season. But this year John Wright is on hunt for a few skilled professionals who can fill the vacant slots in his Mumbai Indians franchise. His research will come handy during the IPL season 8 auction.
While looking for the young and the upcoming stars, the Kiwi has also been inquiring about India discards like Yuvraj Singh and Irfan Pathan.
NDTV's Rica Roy caught up with him in between his trips to the Ranji venues in the capital. He spoke about India's chances in the World Cup, Yuvraj's exclusion and a lot more. Here are the excerpts:
Rica Roy: Duncan Fletcher's term as Indian coach ends right after the World Cup. Would you be interested to look East once again?
John Wright: I have had my turn, it was a great privilege. I was there for five years. Right now, I am a little bit older and wiser. There will be many names that will crop up from all over the world. It is a coaching job everyone relishes. I think there are a lot of people who would do a great job and some of them are Indian coaches. You must not underestimate how much quality in coaching you have here. I know some of the boys I played with would make magnificent coaches. They read the game well, they have achieved and are passionate about Indian cricket.
Those are the characters and qualities that you look for in a coach. It is a privilege to be associated to with the Indian cricket team, no matter who you are.
Q: Before the IPL, most of the top international stars will feature in cricket's marquee event - the World Cup. How much chance do you give India to retain the title?
A: I think everyone has a chance. It looks like a very open contest. There is a lot of speculation about the teams. Everyone is following who is playing well and discussing who could be the favourite. Honestly, it is very wide open.
Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much will you give India for its preparations?
A: I will give them six or seven. India wouldn't be the favourites. Geographically, Australia and South Africa would be at an advantage. A lot of people Down Under are talking about conditions that will affect these teams.
It will be very interesting to see what kind of wickets are rolled out because these days the wickets are not what you expect. In the recent series in Australia, the wickets were flat. When we went to South Africa for World Cup in 2003, the wickets were a lot flatter than we expected.
Q: Talking about wickets, how different will the wickets in New Zealand be from the ones in Australia?
A: I think there will be quite a lot of difference. The ball will move sideways in New Zealand and some wickets there are very hard to predict. Some are green and some are flat with just a hint of grass.
They also vary with climates. There will probably be instructions from ICC to make sure the wickets are flat and fair. Two white balls will make the difference. You shall have to use them effectively.
Q: What do you think will be India's weak link in this tournament?
A: It would have to be their bowling. That is the major challenge. It is particularly important to take wickets in the first 15 overs because that gives a team momentum. Not just that, the fielding too. Fielding does matter in ODI cricket . A team needs to be accurate with its catching. There are some very good batsmen and it is hard to get them out twice.
India has very good batting talent. Essentially you got to try and get all facets of your game gelling well. It is difficult to win games if you are only batting well or bowling well and your fielding is below par. Running between the wickets count. You don't want to sacrifice a run out. Another important thing is extras. You can give the opponent 2 overs with extras, if the bowling isn't tidy.
Q: You have been having a look at India's domestic scene for a few years now. While batsmen seem to have gone up by a few notches, there is a paucity of good bowlers. Why is that?
A: I am always very impressed when I come here. I love watching cricket in India because you see a lot of talent. It is just a matter of picking the right guys and giving them the guidance. A lot of them work very hard. When they get there, they are willing to get to next level. A good example of a modern day Indian cricketer is, Axar Patel.
He was a member of the Mumbai Indians franchise when I arrived, two years back. At that time he was 19 or may be younger. He did not get a game in the year we did well. Then he got a chance last year with Kings XI Punjab and look where he is now. He made a real impact. We always knew that he was very talented, he could bat, he bowl and brilliant fielder as well. He is a very good example of how ambitious young Indian cricketers are.
Q: You think he will be the one to look out for in the upcoming World Cup?
A: Let's hope so.
Q: Since you have been having a look at cricketers from the domestic circuit, did a certain Yuvraj Singh catch your eye? Since he is a free agent now, would you be keen on picking him during the IPL auction?
A: We have a fantastic franchise where the owners are passionate about their team. We keep a track of our players during the Ranji season. It is important to see how they are performing in domestic cricket. For me, it is a matter of keeping in touch with them and then looking at players we may be interested during auction. The idea is to try and get the combination right. It is a great opportunity for a coach and a challenge as well.
There will be many teams looking at Yuvraj. Many years ago, when I met Yuvraj for the first time, he was 19. Everyone in India loves Yuvi not just because of his cricket but the character he showed through his illness. It is great to see him get runs. I was surprised to see that he was not in the squad Down Under because he had such a good World Cup, last time. But the decision has been made.
Isn't it is great that someone after having gone through such disappointment is still performing in domestic cricket? Sometimes domestic cricket is very under-rated. That shouldn't be, because that is the pathway.