One of the most successful and respected coaches around the world, John Geoffrey Wright was born in Darfield, Canterbury on this day in 1954. While the Kiwi is more renowned for his coaching exploits, Wright was also the first New Zealand batsman to pass 4000 Test runs. He was an integral part of the 1980s New Zealand side that achieved overseas successes against England and Australia.
Known for his determined approach to batting, Wright was one of the few batsmen to have scored a century against all nations in 1990-91. Wright finished with 9225 runs in 231 appearances in his 15-year long international career, notching up 13 centuries and 47 fifties.
Post his playing career, Wright took up a coaching stint with Kent and then moved on to become the coach of the Indian cricket team. In doing so, he became the side’s first foreign coach. The appointment came close on the heels of Indian cricket going through it’s darkest phase, with Kapil Dev resigning as coach after his name was involved in the match-fixing scandal. With Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja also named in the stings, the captaincy was handed over to Sourav Ganguly.
Overcoming the turmoil, the Wright-Ganguly partnership produced one of the best phases in the nation’s cricketing history. Under his guidance, India registered a historic 2-1 series win against Australia at home in 2001, won the 2002 Natwest Trophy and reached the 2003 World Cup final. They also drew an away series Down Under in 2003 and beat Pakistan in their own backyard, in both the ODI and Test series.
Wright’s stint ended in 2005 after India lost form and the Kiwi refused to sign an extension. He was replaced by former Australia skipper Greg Chappell.
Post a five-year gap, Wright returned to coaching with his national side. He managed New Zealand for less than two years, the highlights being the Blackcaps’ first Test win in Australia in 26 years, at Hobart in December 2011, and reaching the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup.
In 2013, he was appointed coach of Mumbai Indians and led them to their maiden IPL title, and is currently a scout for the franchise. Stunningly enough, Wright in his free time also sings and doubles up as songwriter. He released his debut album early in 2017, an 11-track compilation named Red Skies. John Wright will certainly go down as a Kiwi great and one who played a huge role in the evolution of Indian cricket from being a good side to world beaters.