Stardom made Team India complacent: Wright

Published: Saturday, August 19, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Christchurch: John Wright confirms what the fans have doubted all along, the ''commercial activity'' surrounding Team India is so huge that it makes some of the young players complacent and undisciplined.

The former coach reveals in his memoirs that he saw humble youngsters happy to be a part of the team turn into stars with loads of attitude during his stint with the Indians.

''When a player first came into the team you'd tell him that his job was to look after the drinks...nothing would be too much trouble because they were thrilled to be playing for India. The first sign that there was too much stardust in the air was when you had to ask them twice,'' Wright revealed in his book 'Indian Summers'.

Recalling the phase just after India's fine performance in the 2003 World Cup, where they reached the finals, the former coach said his calls of keeping cricket over everything else went without response from some players.

''At the post-World Cup camp, I told a number of players that they weren't putting cricket first. Their responses ranged from agreement to 'I'm tired of listening to this','' Wright wrote in his book 'Indian Summers'.

The former coach revealed that players entered a ''comfort zone'' after a reasonably successful World Cup campaign and a Test and ODI triumph over Pakistan the next year, and some of them took their places for granted.

''The players returned home to find themselves in huge demand both socially and commercially...on a scale some of them couldn't have imagined. Next time I saw them at the pre-season camp, some were distinctly more casual and self-confident,'' the former coach wrote.

Wright said the biggest challenge for him was to keep the players grounded as they had ''loosened'' as a group and had become ''undisciplined'' after the victory in Pakistan.

''...good attitudes and habits that had helped us achieve success were being paid lip-service rather then being put into practice. The 2004 hangover didn't lift until we had lost at home to Australia,'' he elaborated.

These were times, said Wright that he wished to be a selector and drop the complacent lot. However, not being one meant that he had to be content with just warning the overnight stars and expect them to follow the advice. ''At those times, I really wished I was a selector, as opposed to an adviser to the selection panel. All it would have taken to get the players' attention was to drop a couple of them; the bigger the better.

''After some indifferent displays at the 2004 Asia Cup, I told one player that if I had been a selector, I would have dropped him...But I wasn't a selector and he wasn't dropped.'' The Kiwi said only the ''real professionals'' like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid could keep themselves unaffected by the commercialism that surrounded the team. He said the youngsters tended to lose focus on their game after a few successes as they fat endorsements even after ordinary performances.

Wright felt that the financial windfall sometimes did more damage than any good to the young players in the team.

''A handful of promising performances triggers a tidal wave of adulation and some fat endorsement deals. This is where overnight success can be a trap for young players. Indian cricket's double-edged sword is that success can be your enemy,'' Wright explained.

The former Kiwi captain said even he felt trapped in the ''bubble'' in which cricket was put behind ''commercial imperatives'' and ''board politics''.

''Sometimes I felt trapped in the bubble...where media and public perception, public relations, commercial imperatives and board politics seemed to matter more than actual performance...the bottom line isn't necessarily dependent on the team's performance and that can breed complacency and scramble priorities,'' the former coach said.

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