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JOHN WRIGHT. The name itself induces a feel-good sensation when taken in the context of Indian cricket. After all it was the soft-spoken Kiwi who pioneered one of Indian cricket's greatest eras without ever really hogging the limelight. During Wright's five-year reign as India's first-ever foreign coach, Mumbai in many ways proved to be his unofficial base. And as he rekindled his long-lost alliances at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday, it was almost like witnessing the homecoming of a much-adored son of the soil.
On the face of it, the Mumbai Indians, renowned for their incessant penchant for poaching high-profile names, might have hit the big league again by roping in Wright as their new head coach in their quest to make a much-awaited impact in the IPL. Their latest addition to a star-studded support staff that includes Anil Kumble as mentor, Robin Singh as assistant coach and Jonty Rhodes and fielding coach.
But when was the last time the appointment of a preeminent coach guaranteed a title-winning campaign? While Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) lifted the IPL trophy in dramatic fashion last year, it's unlikely that many will be able to instantly recall the identity of their coach-Trevor Bayliss. Ironically, KKR too boasted of fancy names at the helm in previous seasons, the likes of John Buchanan and Dav Whatmore, but to no avail. Similarly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni remains the face of Chennai Super Kings-twice winners of the IPL-leaving coach Stephen Fleming to go about his business discreetly in the background. The coach has remained a near-anonymous force even in the cases of successful T20 outfits like Trinidad & Tobago or even the West Indies national team for that matter.
Indulging in ceaseless analysis might have become a necessary evil when it comes to T20 franchise cricket. But in the hectic climes of the IPL, teams end up seeking a unifying force rather than a raving consul. Someone who can bring together players from different nationalities and backgrounds on the same page and headed towards the same non-negotiable goal. The packed schedule of the IPL means numerous bloated egos in the dressing room and it's a coach's man-management skills more than his tactics that make the real difference.