It is highly improbable that Duncan Fletcher will have his contract renewed as coach of the Indian cricket team in a few months’ time.
Far too much humiliation on the Test front will not permit continuity and the bottom line should always be performance no matter how hard Fletcher worked to match the deeds of his predecessor Gary Kirsten, who is credited for masterminding India’s 2011 World Cup win.
Fletcher does not have much in the wins column where the traditional game is concerned and even his most die-hard supporters will admit that. However, it would be unfair to assume that he got the right kind of support from the establishment as well as the players. He has not been luxuriated by the media for sure and that’s partly because of his aversion to the Press corps. No one expects a coach to appease the members of the fourth estate, but Fletcher has simply stayed away from turning up for basic explanations in times of cricketing distress.
The one occasion I remember him turning up for a media briefing was after yet another poor day at the Edgbaston Test. He stressed the point that the ball was moving to a great extent and that was causing unique problems to his batsmen. Fletcher chose to be different from India’s three former foreign coaches. John Wright, the country’s first overseas coach was not exactly an ally of the media, but when he spoke, he always made some strong points.
One of the most profound statements he made to me was that India had lost 10 per cent of their edge soon after their first ever series win in Pakistan during the 2003-04 season and that Indian fans had every right to expect fighting performances from their heroes. Wright wasn’t happy with how the team fared against Australia at home in 2004. He let that show. What he didn’t tell the media was how uncomfortable he was when Sunil Gavaskar was appointed as a consultant in India’s quest to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy that season.
Greg Chappell, who replaced Wright in 2005, was great for the media and that did not go down well with the players. Some of the biggest names in the team were convinced that Chappell was discussing team issues with journalists. However, it must be said that Chappell did not let it rip when the team crashed out of the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. He could have easily done so, bit didn’t.
That period coincided with the end of his contract. He had some support from certain Board members, but chose not to continue. His term should be viewed in true perspective. While his theory that India would be better served with Sachin Tendulkar not opening the innings was crushed during that World Cup, India fared pretty well in one-day cricket when he was in charge. His emphasis on youth attracted much approval, but others viewed it as his way of getting rid of the seniors.
Many believe Kirsten did well because he provided the players with a comfort level which brought out the best in them. He didn’t go out of his way to challenge the seniors and they in turn gave off their best. He also excelled as a throw-down man to batsmen in the nets. Not rocking the ship heavy with seniors was Kirsten’s method, something which probably Fletcher has done, but not to good effect.
All said and done, a coach doesn’t bat, bowl and field and this fact will save Fletcher much ridicule when he ends his Indian journey. Since he has chosen not to go into details about what exactly he has been doing, we will have to read about it in a book which I am very sure he will write someday. Until then, he’ll be viewed as Duncan checked in, checked out and experienced several embarrassing Test losses in between.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor
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