Speaking on the first episode of Wisden and CricViz’s The Greatest T20 podcast, Luke Wright recalled his state of disbelief when India great Sachin Tendulkar personally called him up and asked him to play for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
Wright, whose hard-hitting and canny medium-pace made him one of T20 cricket’s earliest pioneers in England, spoke about the impact of playing franchise cricket overseas, and how it helped him rapidly develop as a player.
“If I had been able to have the experience with these franchises and different leagues before playing for England, which a lot of the players are doing either during or before, now, is such an advantage,” Wright said.
“I remember missing out on one of the IPLs actually. I thought it was a joke – Sachin Tendulkar rang me to go and play for the Mumbai Indians in one of the first IPLs, and I obviously thought it was the lads taking the mick.
“I remember talking to the ECB about it, and it was me and Ravi Bopara both got told that if we were to go, we would be pretty much giving up playing for England. Whereas you look now and England are paying their compensations to go and play. I don’t think back then they appreciated that sharing the dressing room [would be like] with, well Sachin obviously for one.”
With ECB’s rigid stance relenting only later, Wright made his IPL debut only in 2012, bagging a deal with the now-defunct Pune Warriors India, soon after he had blasted the then-fastest ton in Australia’s Big Bash League. And, while Wright managed to play just seven IPL games, the experience, he believes was superior to anything he had experienced in the past.
“When I went to Pune, you got Yuvraj [Singh], [Aaron] Finch, Angelo Mathews, [Ross] Taylor, you can reel off all these names, and you just stood there in the nets, learning how they go about it, asking questions, they’re giving you tips, and that was just huge for me as a learning curve, and you’re then playing in different conditions. In terms of learning, it’s the best. It’s under pressure, you’re there as an overseas player, people expect you to perform, but you are learning.
“I think, I became a far better player probably when I was 27, 28 because of those experiences than at times when I was playing for England.”