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India must persist with Fletcher


Duncan_Fletcher_Zimbabwe_Cricket_India_CoachGary Kirsten, post the famous World Cup win in 2011, left his job as Team India’s coach. However, he did his bit by guiding BCCI to appoint their new coach in the form of Duncan Fletcher. Kirsten believed that Fletcher would be the right man for Team India at that point of time. Although Kirsten's involvement while selecting his successor is debatable, the appointment of Fletcher is not entirely misplaced for a team that was set to do better things.

However, the winning consistency since Fletcher’s selection has gone down. The whitewashes away from home have been discussed at length. The defeats against England (in the Test series) and Pakistan have not gone down well with fans either.The performance in the ICC World T20 Championship 2012 was unsatisfactory too. Although MS Dhoni has largely been blamed for these defeats, Duncan Fletcher has not been spared either. But, is it just Duncan or is it ‘safety first’ and ‘planning later’ approach that has troubled Indian cricket?

Apart from the criticism he receives for the team’s on-field performance, Duncan is often blamed for his absence during media interactions before or after the games. However, I am yet to understand this ‘let the coach handle the heat’ approach. India is often best served by the coaches who prefer to remain behind the scenes and not at the press conferences. And it was this ability that ticked him in for the post of Team India’s coach.

Considering, the starry status Indian players have in India, they prefer a coach who looks after the man-management and back-office activities and lets the captain take the limelight. India have done well when such a combo is in place. The examples of Dhoni-Kirsten and Ganguly-Wright partnership are there to see. The same cannot be said about the Chappell-Ganguly partnership where the coach was too feisty, outspoken and media friendly. Fletcher being a follower of ‘captain is the spokesman of the team’ idea, he is the man India must hold onto.

Team India is under transition. Hence, fans, experts and selectors need to be patient. The decisions and selections have to be made not merely based on talent but also on temperament. While few decisions are going to succeed, some are going to fail. Hence, Fletcher shall be allowed to follow his ‘investment’ principle that effectively worked while he coached England. Although Flintoff is now looked as one of the top all-rounders, when first selected for England, his record in county cricket was not great. The same holds true for Trescothick, Vaughan and Harmison. This goes on to show that Fletcher has an eye for talent. Add to it, his know-how of batting technicalities.

Fletcher is viewed as too dull and too old for his job. His perceived inability to communicate effectively with the media and team is an issue as well. But Duncan is not new or ill-fitted for the job. His record as England coach during Nasser Hussain and Vaughan is noteworthy. England’s Ashes win in 2005 under Vaughan is often talked about. However, his association with Hussain that started the rebuilding of the then down and out England side should not be forgotten. Team India in many ways, are under that rebuilding phase. Duncan has the experience to mentor such a side. And that shall work in his favour.

He has not yet done many great things with Team India. But give him a longer rope, like the players on the field, even coaches need time. Like all of us, he is human.

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