England tour of India - Cricket: Will Wright become Dalmiyas scapegoat?

Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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Bangalore: India go into the series-clinching final Test against India from Wednesday burdened by a captain who cannot score runs and a coach who cannot hang on to his job.While the lack of an alternative will help Saurav Ganguly retain the captaincy after the series despite making just one half-century in his last 18 innings, coach John Wright may not be so lucky.If recent remarks from top officials are any indication, the genial New Zealander is set to become the latest victim of the old formula in Indian cricket; when in doubt, sack the coach.Wright, on a temporary extension after completing his first year on the job last month, will know next week whether he will be asked to make way for India's seventh coach in the last six years.India's all-powerful cricket chief Jagmohan Dalmiya will hold a brainstorming session with Wright, team members and physiotherapist Andrew Leipus soon after the Test ends on Sunday.Dalmiya, the controversial former president of the International Cricket Council who took over as head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in September, is clearly perturbed by his national team's pathetic record away from home.India, often referred to as tigers at home and lambs abroad, has not won a Test series outside the sub-continent since 1986.Even though Dalmiya insists no decision has been made on Wright and Leipus, at least one former Indian cricket chief, Raj Singh Dungarpur, said next week's session with the team is just a pretext to get rid of the two foreigners."Dalmiya wants to remove them because they were appointed by his predecessor A C Muthiah," Dungarpur said."Its a witch-hunt. The sword hangs over Wright's head even as he plans India's strategy for this Test. Good luck to him."Wright, 47, a former New Zealand captain who made his mark as coach of English county side Kent, was inducted as India's first foreign coach with much fanfare last November.He took a job that was rotated among five Indians since 1996: Ajit Wadekar, Sandeep Patil, Madan Lal, Anshuman Gaekwad and Kapil Dev.His crowning glory came in February-March this year when India stunned world champions Australia 2-1 in a dramatic Test series at home.But the stupendous achievement was overshadowed by India's defeats later in the year in Sri Lanka and South Africa and a 1-1 deadlock against lowly Zimbabwe.Worse, Ganguly's men were forced to draw the second Test against England at Ahemdabad last week, regarded by many as a moral defeat against the most inexperienced side to visit India's shores in recent years.Only a win in the final Test here will assuage critics and more importantly, Dalmiya.Ganguly and the other senior pro, Sachin Tendulkar, have publicly spoken in favour of Wright in recent days, saying he had contributed immensely to the team.

Copyright AFP 2001

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