New Delhi: Newly-appointed coach of the Indian team John Wright finds his job a big challenge but is confident of earning everyone's respect while fulfilling his responsibilities toward Indian cricket.
''It is a great honour and I am delighted to coach India where people from all walks of life follow cricket passionately or rather religiously,'' Wright told UNI after taking over from stop-gap coach Aunshuman Gaekwad, who finished his assignment on a winning note.
About the team at his hand, the former New Zealand captain said the national squad is a mix of experience and youth that can work wonders for India. ''It is a huge challenge to mould such talent,'' he added.
On the proceedings, Wright said he was talking to the boys to get acquainted with them and get a feel of their mental frame and approach to the game. ''Though I have seen many established players closely during India's tour of New Zealand two years back and this summer in England, I will listen to all, observe them and plan carefully. While I have my ideas, I will be open to them as well for feedback,'' the first foreign coach of the Indian team said.
Wright asserted that discipline is paramount. He hoped that players would appreciate what he meant by ways of values, standards and discipline. He said the cricketers play so much these days that one has to keep the drills in such a way that they enjoy the breather in between the matches. ''Of course, the emphasis on basic skills and style will always be there.''
Taking the charge ahead of the first of two-Test series against Zimbabwe here, Wright agreed that the complexion and nature of the game had changed by leaps and bounds and any coach had to follow the finer points.
He opined that training has to be with a purpose as there is no point in going out to train when one has no specific purpose. Improvement is always needed even when the team is doing well and that should be in the mind of each player. This is his message to the Indian camp.
On his role, the soft-spoken 46-year-old Wright spelt out his recipe saying, ''I will try to get batsmen score runs galore, encourage bowlers to take more wickets and expect fielders to put down fewer catches. Broadly, every player must improve.''
Wright, whose temperament is said to match the Indian players following his impression on Rahul Dravid while playing for English county Kent (coached by the New Zealander), was also backed by skipper Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar.
Wright, who has played in 82 Tests for New Zealand scoring 5,334 runs since his debut in 1978, has been awarded a one-year term. However, his performance will be evaluated after a year, and if the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) mandarins find the results satisfactory, he might well stay on till the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.
He is the ninth Indian team coach since the post was created in 1988-89 when Bishen Singh Bedi first assumed the mantle in early 1990s during the tour to New Zealand. Later, Abbas Ali Beg, Ashok Mankad, Ajit Wadekar, Sandeep Patil, Madal Lal, Aunshuman Gaekwad and Kapil Dev coached the national squad.
Wright also wants to bring in lap top strategies into Indian cricket. In Bangalore recently, he visited a software firm trying to understand their latest tools that the BCCI plans to use to enhance the team's strategic planning. He was reportedly pleased with the software, especially designed for the purpose.
Former South African coach Bob Woolmer was the first to introduce computer software to cricketing decision-making, rather than relying on action replays of the video footage of matches.
The computerised strategy-making encompasses not only a particular team's strengths and weaknesses, but also those of its rivals around the world as of individual players.