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IPL Staff in Chennai 05 April 2013 - 06:46pm IST

Sachin, Ponting to continue to open: Wright

MI coach admits a plethora of stars makes selection job tough

John Wright’s homecoming to India didn’t begin on a merry note as the Mumbai Indians went down by two runs against a Gayle-powered Royal Challengers Bangalore outfit in their first game. But the coach knows much better than to read too much into that loss.

Wright knows he has an incredible amount of class at his disposal in all departments, especially so when it comes to the leadership group.
“We want to work as a team’ and we’ve each got specific roles,” Wright said of MI’s team management that includes himself, mentor Anil Kumble, captain Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar.

“Anil brings great knowledge of Indian conditions and IPL in general because he’s been part of it right since its inception. That’s a huge help. Ricky and Sachin have huge leadership qualities which the players benefit from during net practice and both on and off the field. I am there to organise the practice sessions and helping the players off the field in whatever way they need me to.

“I think IPL is a very challenging environment to coach in because it’s a very fast moving tournament. Having such experienced leadership group around them helps the young players not only to perform in the IPL but in their overall development as well.

Besides its second to none core leadership group, the most exciting feature of MI in IPL 2013 is the opening pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. The top two run-getters in the history of Test cricket became batting partners for the first time in their careers during MI’s first game of the season. Wright termed it as a “unique feature of the IPL”.

“It’s great for the competition and it’s a unique feature of the IPL where you have the likes of Sachin and Ponting batting together. That’s why the tournament excites the fans. They too are finding it exciting to bat together, something they probably have never done before. It’s also such a unique learning opportunity for the youngsters in our team,” Wright said, while confirming that MI will stick to the Tendulkar-Ponting opening pair for the next few games of the tournament.

“We feel that Ponting and Sachin opening for us is currently the right thing and we’ve talked about it in the team. We definitely have high-skilled batsmen who can rotate the strike. But if we can combine that skill with a couple of power-hitters, we’re going to be a stronger unit,” Wright said.
One way of maintaining the fire-and-ice combination at the top that Wright spoke about is to promote Kieron Pollard higher than his usual No.6 position. The coach admitted the big West Indian could’ve taken MI to a win against RCB had he been given a few more balls to face. “It’s just the way it turned out; I suppose in retrospect he could’ve gone in earlier,” he said.

Like most things in life, having a star-studded squad too has it flip side, as Wright is experiencing with the Mumbai Indians. “It is difficult. Sometimes, you’re too spoilt for choice and everyone wants to play. This is probably the toughest team I’m coaching when it comes to selecting the final XI because we have a number of high-class players and they all are very keen to play.

“We’re looking at our combinations. The great thing about our side is that we’ve got a lot of flexibility since we’ve got players that can play in any position. I know most batsmen like to bat at the top in T20 cricket but some of the more difficult positions are 5, 6, 7. It’s an important task for the team management to indentify the talent and give players roles according to that,” Wright said.

While talking about the star, the coach didn’t forget the young kid on the block who he discovered from the land of Gujarat.

“We’re really happy with Jasprit’s (BUmrah) debut. I saw him bowl in a domestic T20 in Ahmedabad and he caught the eye. We talked to some of the people who’ve seen him closely and decided to pick him. He’s got an interesting action and he’s also got some pace. He will add a bit of variation in our attack. To be able to perform the way he did in his first big match in front of a huge crowd, it was a very encouraging start,” Wright said. 

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