India cements a place for Fletcher


The Indian cricket establishment is one happy family.

From officials in the Board of Control for Cricket in India to skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the selection committee led by Sandeep Patil, everyone is smiling these days.

One man who has preferred to stay away from the limelight and not react to the barrage of media criticism is coach Duncan Fletcher, who has managed to get his contract extended for a year.

These are good times for Indian cricket. After being battered and bruised in away tours in Australia and England, it was hard to digest the loss to the Englishmen at home in a Test series. Fletcher also came in for flak but he did not flinch.

As one who has kept safe distance from the media and not got involved in games which Greg Chappell played, Fletcher has stayed away from controversies. He knew replacing Gary Kirsten would not be easy as the South African had set very high standards for Indian cricket which translated into good results in the ODI and Test formats. Indeed, the icing on the cake was winning the ICC World Cup in 2011.

The way Dhoni’s side failed in away Test series, Fletcher faced a heavy artillery barrage from not just the media but also former cricketers, some of whom were aspiring to take over his job.

All this is now a thing of the past as in one stroke, the Indian cricket family head, BCCI president N Srinivasan, has said that there is no question of replacing Fletcher and he will continue till 2014.

We all know hiring a cricket coach is not an easy job. It is now more or less certain that, be it wins or losses, the Indian cricket coach has to be someone from abroad as desi coaches are not considered good enough.

From Sunil Gavaskar to Sourav Ganguly, the reactions on Fletcher getting an extension have been on predictable lines.

Gavaskar said on Friday: “If he ( Fletcher) were an Indian, he would not have got an extension".

If you look at the past, every time an Indian coach didn’t do well, he was removed.” Ganguly, who himself had been fancying his chances of becoming India coach, reacted by saying: “ Now that he has been given an extension of one year, I guess he will remain as India coach till the 2015 World Cup.” It is clear opinions are divided on Fletcher. Some say he is too quiet and some say he is not proactive.

There were also whispers in the corridors of power that Srinivasan and Dhoni were looking at hiring Stephen Fleming but he never reverted.

Being the India coach is a job which gives you not just headaches but allied ailments. It is a rewarding package in monetary terms with many benefits, but the constant scrutiny from all kinds of people is very hard to take.

From Fletcher’s point of view, it is good that in Srinivasan and Dhoni, he has strong supporters as they are the men who matter. Much as we screamed that Dhoni be removed as Test captain after the loss to England at home, the same Dhoni is now being called a magician who has regained his winning touch.

Obviously, by inference, Fletcher must have done something to motivate the Indian bunch. The way it goes, the selectors, captain and the coach have to plan in tandem and strive to achieve the best results.

Yes, Fletcher’s away record is disastrous as in 11 Test matches, India have won just one and lost eight, with two draws. T he mood at home is now one of celebration.

Dhoni is being hailed for the gambles he takes. He has pushed Ravindra Jadeja hard and he has now become a spinner feared by the Australian batsmen. And if one needed further proof, after Virender Sehwag’s sacking, throwing Shikhar Dhawan into the deep end has worked.

As the global cricket audience feasted on Dhawan’s array of strokes, Fletcher must have been smiling in the dressing room.

The common view at home is that the foreign coach has to teach a cricketer the basics. Come on, when you have made it to the highest level of cricket, it is not so much about lessons in fundamentals but the mental preparation.

It is the coach’s job to provide inputs and prepare for a series. Unlike a Greg Chappell, Fletcher has not revealed much on how he deals with the players.

But after this affirmation of faith in his ability to be India coach for one more year, I am sure Fletcher will breathe easy. Like you and me, he knows the assignments abroad will be gruelling and it starts with the Champions Trophy in the United Kingdom to be followed by a high- profile away Test series in South Africa.

Then again, as Ganguly has hinted, there is every reason to believe Fletcher and Dhoni will be around till the 2015 World Cup where India will be defending the title. However much we view Fletcher with a critical eye and cynicism, there is no questioning the fact that as long as his bosses are happy, he will not be touched.

That’s the concrete power of the combination cemented by Messrs Srinivasan and Dhoni.

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