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IPL Staff in Abu Dhabi 15 April 2014 - 04:22pm IST

Rohit is a natural captain: Wright

MI coach is confident his young skipper will overcome pressure of defending the title

As defending champions, Mumbai Indians, prepare to open the Pepsi IPL 2014, against the Kolkata Knight Riders, coach John Wright spoke of his team’s composition and their options in the tournament.

“There’s an air of expectancy. All the teams have a different make-up this time, and from our point of view, we have a core of players from last year as well as some new additions, which is interesting. We are all looking forward to getting started,” Wright said.

The MI coach was very pleased with the balance of his side and looked very sure of the players they are looking at for each role.

“Sometimes, combinations are governed by conditions, but that is not the case here,” Wright said of playing the first leg of the tournament in the UAE. “We had a look at the wicket and there was a bit of grass, so it should be a good wicket. Our selection should be very much what we had thought of. We’re pretty well organized.”

While most of the international players select themselves in the starting XI, there are a couple of spots left vacant by the departure of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Dwayne Smith and Dinesh Karthik. Wright said that the absence of these players will present the uncapped players, like Aditya Tare and Jalaj Saxena, a chance to shine.

“There is an opportunity there. Some of the big players are not a part of the setup now and we have some young Indian players who have a spot to compete for. Some of the guys are new, while some have been with us for two-three years, and now it is their time.

“I think that’s the greatest thing about the IPL – it creates an opportunity for a virtually unknown player to come in and make a name for themselves. Let’s hope we have the right youngsters who seize that opportunity,” the coach said.

The mood in the Mumbai Indians camp wore a distinctively lively look during their practice session on the eve of the match as Sachin Tendulkar took centre stage, guiding and encouraging his former teammates. Wright said that having the Mumbai Indians ICON around has been a fillip.

“Sachin has been a big part of the team, longer than some of us, including myself,” he said. “This team holds an important part in his heart; he is Mumbai Indians through and through. It’s great to have him around, particularly for our young guys who look up to him.”

Another man whose presence will augment MI’s batting strength by leaps and bounds is Michael Hussey. While Wright hinted he will open the batting with Rohit Sharma, he also said that Hussey’s versatility will make him a lynchpin anywhere in the line-up.

“We’re pretty sure of what role we want to put Mike into and what he will bring to the table. But having said that, Mike is a very experienced and adaptable guy. So, if we want him to bat in the middle order, he will perform that role just as well.”

Wright was also all praise for MI’s young captain, Rohit Sharma, who he said was “one of the most natural captains” he had come across.
“Rohit is one of those guys who just jump into the role and fit into it like a glove,” Wright said. His tactical decisions have been great, which is very important on the field. But leadership is all about performance, and Rohit has led the team from the front.

“He has done an outstanding job and I don’t think he should be underestimated. He will always be faced with a challenge. This time, he comes in as the defending captain, which is not easy. But his captaincy adds a lot to this team, and what he has contributed to this team should not be undermined. In some of the big games last season, I don’t think he put a foot wrong. I think he’s one of the most natural captains I have ever met.”

As he gears up for his first IPL overseas experience, Wright said that he hopes the natives of the UAE will fill in the stands as tightly as the Indians do.

“It’s exciting that the IPL is in this part of the world because it is close to India. And although it is not my area of expertise, I believe in the context of brand synergy – which is a big part of IPL – it is great for the tournament.

“From what I understand, the ticket sales have been excellent. The IPL has the same sort of feel like the Champions League in football, and who’s to know how far the IPL will go and how big it will become. It would be great if we get full houses for all matches, because if we do, it will feel like India.”

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