Former India cricket coach John Wright feels the only way the current team can defend its World Cup title is by backing its exciting batting line-up with a much-improved bowling effort than what it has shown of late.
Wright said the team has got the best possible preparation for the mega event Down Under by playing a four match Test series and is soon to play in the ODI tri-series.
Comparing the champion 2011 squad with the current lot, the affable New Zealander said the batting firepower along with a more experienced captain in Mahendra Singh Dhoni will need the support from the other two departments in a tournament he considers wide open.
“That team had been playing together for a longer period of time. This team is more unknown. Batting wise it looks as exciting as the one in 2011. Dhoni has had more leadership experience in one-day cricket. But a lot will depend on taking those early wickets and holding on to the catches,” Wright told a handful of reporters while watching the Ranji Trophy match between Baroda and Railways in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“There will be two new white balls (in each innings), you want to take advantage of that. You want to be taking wickets, otherwise the game runs away from you,” said the former New Zealand captain who is in India to look for fresh talent as a coach for Mumbai Indians.
The sixty-year-old picked Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma as India’s key players in the tournament beginning on February 14. He is also pleased to see Kohli doing well as a captain in the recently concluded Test series in Australia.
“The most encouraging sign about Kohli is that he has performed (as a captain). It is very difficult to lead the side if you are not performing. Captaincy is like coaching.
The more you do it, the more you learn. The impressive thing about him is that he leads with performance,” said Wright.
Talking about Rohit, he said: “I know what he can do. He is a match winner and beautiful to watch.”
Wright also hoped that players who have been picked ahead of Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag perform in their absence.
“I heard he (Yuvraj) is doing well in domestic cricket. If you drop a player like him, you just hope those who get the opportunity perform. He is a serious player. I am sure it (his selection) created a lot of discussion at the selection meeting,” he said when asked about the Man of the Series at the 2011 World Cup.
The Indian team was doing better overseas when Wright was around while of late it has won only won two out of its last 25 Tests abroad.
“We had a great decade from 2000 and Gary (Kirsten) carried on taking the team to the number one Test side. So they proved they can do it. Sometimes it goes in circles. You only have to look at the Australian team. It had such a fantastic bunch of players and when they retired it struggled,” said the Christchurch-based coach.
“Generally you can’t improve in Tests in a short span of time. It often takes up to five years to master the format. I see the Indian batting to be even stronger in the two years but they have to find a way to take 20 wickets.”
The discussion veered back the World Cup and he was coaxed enough to pick his favourites for the title.
“To begin with, the New Zealand team has been playing some exciting cricket. We have got Brendon (McCullum) performing brilliantly and have Kane (Willamson) and Ross (Taylor) in top form. The young bowlers have done well especially seamers.
“You look all the teams on paper and you tend to go with the home teams, Australia and New Zealand in this case. It was the same when India won and it will be a challenge for them along with the likes of Pakistan, England, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
Wright was humble enough to say that he was at the twillight of his coaching career, ruling himself out from the expected long list of candidates for the Indian coach’s job after Duncan Fletcher departs post the World Cup.
“I heard they were talking about Michael Hussey too. I think there will be a lot of names doing the rounds. I am probably in the too old basket,” he signed off.