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It will be a great series: Wright

By G. Viswanath

MUMBAI, FEB. 28. India coach John Wright feels Sourav Ganguly's Indian team should go to Pakistan with optimism, fighting spirit and the realisation that it would be one of the greatest series in world cricket.

After spending two weeks with his family in New Zealand, Wright arrived here on Friday night. He met Ganguly and vice-captain Rahul Dravid at a commercial shoot involving six Indian players at the Brabourne Stadium on Saturday.

Talking to The Hindu he said: "It's nice to be back in India. There are several things to be done before the tour of Pakistan. I got a chance to talk to Sourav and Dravid and also to Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya to make sure that we are well prepared. We will give a good account of ourselves in probably one of the most exciting series that will be my privilege to be involved in since I have been here.''

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: Did you ever imagine an India-Pakistan Test series becoming a reality when you were appointed coach?

A: I had never ruled it out. Things change. So it's always at the back of your mind.

Q: Ganguly had raised security related questions in Sydney on February 8?

A: I do not get involved in that side of things. Those are taken care of by the BCCI. When we were in Australia we were wrapped up in that series. Now that's finished. I am back and I have to say that it's exciting. It's a challenge I am looking forward to.

Q: Would you say the series against Pakistan would be the toughest for you, given the kind of relations between India and Pakistan?

A: It's a great challenge for all of us. I think it's an important series for the development of the team. There's so much at stake for both teams. There will be a lot of pressure on them as well as us.

Q: Will it be any less on you?

A: I think whatever your background, when you are managing, coaching or are involved in Indian cricket, there's bound to be pressure. The expectations are high. For me the most important thing is to win and to make the Indian people feel proud of the way we play and the way we fight. This series will be no different. We have to make the fans feel proud of the Indian team.

Q: Have you talked to the New Zealand players about the bomb explosion in Karachi two hours before the Pakistan-New Zealand Test two years ago?

A: To be honest, I have not. Every situation is different. I am confident that everyone involved have made the necessary preparation for the smooth conduct of the tour.

Q: Would you say that an elaborate security ring around the team would affect its performance?

A: One has to look at the other side of it too. We are a very well-knit and close team. We enjoy one another's company. That connects the work in your favour, getting the team spirit and that bond going. We can turn around and look at things that way.

Q: Even Sandy Gordon has gone on record that the security aspect will affect the performances?

A: I don't want to react to that. Whatever the situation, I am with the team. The senior players, the others and I have to focus on one thing and that's playing well and getting the results we want.

Q: The tour will demand another special effort from the Indian players as they did in Australia?

A: I think it will be a tough series. Pakistan is a very competitive side. I see it as a wonderful opportunity for our team to show its mettle, given the fact that we have come off a tough series in Australia. Our challenge is to play even better and take the standard to a higher plane.

Q: The one-month break should have done the players a world of good?

A: It was needed after the demanding tour of Australia. In the one-day series there were two stretches when we played four matches in seven days. I think it took its toll. So this break was required.

Q: The batting is more or less settled with Akash Chopra coming good in Australia. Do you have any major worries about the bowling department because of injuries to Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan?

A: Balaji and Pathan performed well in Australia. But, I would like to know what Andrew Leipus has to say about Anil and Zaheer. I spoke to Zaheer this morning and he seemed very confident.

Q: Pakistan is talking about Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami?

A: Every team has players they look up to and players who are hyped up before a series. This seems to be part of the game these days. The question is how we think, prepare and play.

Q: Pathan topped the bowling in the VB series. Would you say he is ready for Test cricket?

A: He grabbed the opportunity he got with both hands. Players who generally come through are the ones who have the hunger to perform. And that carries to the way they play on the field and how they prepare. Youngsters have come through in the last two years and Pathan is just another example after Parthiv Patel.

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