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Time running out for Duncan Fletcher as coach of the Indian team

Time running out for Duncan Fletcher as coach of the Indian team

India has won just one Test and lost eight under Duncan Fletcher’s (right) tenure as coach. However, he enjoy the support and confidence of captain MS Dhoni (left) © Getty Images

Eighteen months ago, when Duncan Fletcher was appointed as the coach of the Indian cricket team, he was expected to fill a huge void created by the exit of Gary Kirsten. The latter had set such high standards for himself, as well as the team; to emulate that would require an enormous effort. Nevertheless, Fletcher had the reputation of transforming even mediocre sides into formidable units, and it was expected that he’d nonchalantly fit into the shoes. Moreover, the Indians were newly-crowned World Cup champions when Fletcher took over, and all that was expected of him was to keep the momentum going.

 

India, under Fletcher’s reign, began cautiously. After the World Cup triumph, India’s first away tour was against the West Indies, where they won the Tests 1-0 and the One-Day International (ODI) series 3-2. A better performance was expected, but considering the fact that a few key players weren’t available, it was a noteworthy effort.

 

Then began the downward slide; India were whitewashed in England and Australia — eight consecutive away Tests losses. The only consolation was a victory over West Indies at home. Nonetheless, only superficial changes were made and the head honchos decided to wait for things to sort themselves out.

 

The decline was evident even in the ODI arena, notwithstanding wins at home against England and West Indies. The World Champions crashed out of the Asia Cup following a loss to a relatively weaker Bangladesh side. Such was the slump that India couldn’t guard itself away from home.

 

The table below reveals India’s performance overseas in all formats of the game under Fletcher’s reign:

 

Format

Played

Won

Lost

Win Percentage

Test

11

1

8

9.09%

ODI

20

8

10

40%

T20

6

3

3

50%

 

 

The decline is appalling, since a similar unit under Kirsten’s tenure registered Win Percentages of 42.85, 58.53 and 50, respectively, in Tests, ODIs and T20s overseas.

 

Fletcher has done a commendable thing by not hogging the limelight as a coach, but is this tight-lipped approach really helping? Kirsten wasn’t a man of many words either, but the fact that he was constantly at work behind the scenes was well known. Most importantly, the results on the field reflected that. However, the same cannot be said about Fletcher. Nevertheless, he’s got the backing of the current players and that cannot be discounted. Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni too has often been optimistic of Fletcher. “He’s a great guy to have. It’s not like he has become the coach and we have lost two series and he’s to be blamed for all the defeats, it’s up to the 11 players to go out and perform,” Dhoni said post the Australian debacle.

 

However, there is the other side too. A few former cricketers never recommended Fletcher’s appointment as coach right from the very beginning. Sunil Gavaskar reckoned an Indian coach would do a better job, whereas Kapil Dev went one step ahead and said, “Who is Duncan Fletcher? I don’t remember much of him as a player. I would like to see (Venkatesh) Prasad and Robin (Singh) as coaches of the Indian team. Not because they are Indians but because they did a great job at the T20 World Cup in 2007.” If anything, their opinions on Fletcher would’ve only gotten stronger now. Former Australian cricketer Marcus North too stated in his column that Fletcher has managed to undo all of Kirsten’s hard work.

 

The upcoming series against England will be yet another litmus test for Fletcher, and albeit there are lesser chances of things going haywire since India is playing at home, a below-par performance will only result in voices against him gaining in momentum. Also, it’s important to note that Fletcher was appointed as coach during April 2011 with a two-year contract, and hence there is not enough time left to turn things around. Thus far, the ship has been heading in the opposite direction, and it remains to be seen if Fletcher can play his part henceforth and finally deliver. The series against England should offer some clues.

 

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)

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