Ask any Johnny at the Lincoln University campus,where the Indian team are training these days,about the visitors new-found aura in world cricket and they nod. When the opinions are those of John Wright and John Buchanan both of whom were at the sidelines of the Indian nets on Sunday they carry a little more weight.
Buchanan and Wright had different reasons to be at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval and didnt quite come face to face,but the two mild-mannered past rivals,who have meticulously plotted against each other sitting in dressing rooms,would have laughed about the changing fortunes of the teams they once coached.
Buchanan is currently with the England A team who are playing a New Zealand emerging players team at a ground about 20 yards from where Sachin Tendulkar is facing the bowling in the nets. The move is being seen as early preparation for the Ashes later this year. While Buchanan diligently takes down notes from the pavilion balcony,Wright takes out time on a bright and sunny Sunday morning to be with Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co whom,incidentally,he still refers to as the boys.
While both use similar expressions while talking about the current Indian side,the fondness in Wrights voice is unmistakable.
After several hearty laughs and warm handshakes with his former wards and new faces,he walks towards the touring media group. You guys must be enjoying travelling these days, he says,pleased that the team had come such a long way down a roadmap he had set down during his stint as Indias first foreign coach.
There is a lot of potential in this side. Im happy they are doing very well. You have good men in (Gary) Kirsten and Paddy (Upton). And they are playing under a good captain as well, Wright said,adding he planned to take the present coach and his assistant out for a meal. Theres no doubt India is in resurgence. Principally,this change has come about under the leadership of MS Dhoni,although I think it was fostered by Anil Kumble and what he did,particularly on the tour to Australia. It will be interesting to track Indias performance in New Zealand. How well they play here will be an indication of how good they are. Im expecting them to do well, Wright said.
In contrast,Buchanan speaks about Australia wandering off the winning path he had charted during his stint with the world champion side. He doesnt harp on the mass exodus of the greats but connects the transition in the Aussie team to the changing mindset of other sides. Actually,the Australian cricket team has adjusted in their dressing room. But the big change is in the opposition dressing room. When they walk out on to the field,they know they are at least on an equal footing,possibly more so, he said.
Though he rates both India and South Africa highly,Buchanan isnt ready to say the Aussies are merely part of the pack yet. Lets play it out over a period of time. Obviously India,South Africa will get a little more of a feel,but I still think Australia will be in the top three for a long time to come. I think No 1 is not defined by one year or one series. Its defined by a minimum of five years,when you have played most of the opposition in most conditions,both home and away.