Durban: India's cricket crazy public, often the scourge of their players, are an inspiration to coach John Wright."I love the job, I love the passion for cricket in India. The Indian people need, want and deserve a good cricket team, a fighting cricket team," Wright, a former New Zealand captain, said ahead of Thursday's World Cup semi-final against Kenya.
"The way the game is loved universally in India, for someone like myself, as an outsider who loves cricket, it's been an enjoyable, challenging journey. I tell my friends, 'you must watch cricket in India'. It's one of the great experiences in cricket, to go to India and see what it means."Wright's contract with the Indian team ends after the World Cup, but it is likely to be extended after his side won eight of their nine matches to reach the semi-final.
On Monday, off spinner Harbhajan Singh paid tribute to Wright's influence but the Kiwi downplayed the compliment in typical deadpan fashion. "Players usually say nice things about current coaches," the 48-year-old said."But the players have to take the credit. We help where we can. But they do the hard work on the field."
However, Wright added, "All of the players are now more aware of the goals and criteria they have to meet during a game. That's been reflected in our fielding and running between the wickets."Under Wright, India has become a close-knit unit and started to shed their reputation for crumbling away from home. "We've had a settled side, so the selectors must take credit for that. I told the players that if we keep winning we'll stick together."
Turning to Thursday's match, Wright said India, which beat Kenya by six wickets in its Super Six encounter at Newlands on March 7, would have to be on its guard."We shouldn't expect to win," Wright warned even though his team is favourite to make the final.
"We have to concentrate on our game plans and the result will take care of itself."The Kenyans are an underestimated side. Like us they've grown in confidence during the tournament." And he insisted there was no danger of his players not being up for the task.
"This next match is a very important match for us. Motivation will take care of itself. You shouldn't need to motivate anyone in a semi-final. For all of us, it's one of the biggest games of our careers."