Since taking over as coach in 2011, India have lost a whopping 13 Tests away from home under Duncan Fletcher © Getty Images
Coach Duncan Fletcher’s powers have been eroded, and his respect gone; staying in such an environment will do no good to his dignity. He could exit before the home series or even before the start of the One-Day International (ODI) series against England, writes H Natarajan.
When India went down 0-4 to Australia in Australia, the team had lost eight Tests in a row. Not just lost, but humiliated. The absence of fight that led to massive defeats scarred a nation of cricket-crazy fans that worshipped the players. Heads had to roll, and the obvious ones were the coach and the captain. However, both stayed. Instead, it was Rahul Dravid, who made a dignified exit from the game after just one series, which was preceded by three series — including tours of West Indies and England — in which he averaged 50.20, 76.83 and 63.80.
Indian cricket under N Srinivasan was governed by protectionism. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher were untouchables. Both stayed and India went on to preside over series defeats in South Africa, New Zealand and England. The latest series defeat meant India have lost 13 of the 17 Tests it has played overseas under the Dhoni-Fletcher combine.
On Tuesday, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) used the oft-abused euphemism “rested” to sideline two of Fletcher’s men — bowling coach Joe Dawes and fielding coach Trevor Penney — for the One-Day International (ODI) series against England. Two key backroom support men sidelined ahead of an important series and BCCI think the cricketing world is full of morons, who does not understand the intrinsic meaning of the word ‘rest’ in the two cases!
Over the years, and more so under the influence of Srinivasan, every important announcement of BCCI has been shrouded with mystery. The BCCI’s Bermuda Triangle leads to all kinds of speculations and theories. Hours after the announcements, whispers began to be heard from the inner sanctum of BCCI headquarters. The ‘resting’ of Fletcher’s two trusted lieutenants and the appointment of Ravi Shastri midway through the tour of England as Director of Cricket was a subtle hint to make a dignified exit. Fletcher is isolated and clearly unwanted.
“Duncan has no powers left whatsoever. Ravi will be calling the shots, and Duncan knows it only too well. At this point of time, with no choice of support staff, Duncan will have to take a back seat. If Duncan wants to leave before the next home series against West Indies, the Board will not stop him… The BCCI has sent him enough feelers that he is not required,” a senior BCCI office-bearer had reportedly told PTI on condition of anonymity. It should come as no surprise if Fletcher quits before the home series against West Indies or even before the start of the ODI series against England. His powers have been eroded, and his respect gone; staying in such an environment will do no good to his dignity.
Fletcher’s imminent exit, now or before the series against West Indies, in the form of resignation or sack, will do no good to Indian cricket either. The new man taking over will be left with very little time to jell with the team before India begins the defense of the ICC World Cup. The appointment of new coach coming into the dressing room is much alike newly-wed girl coming into her husband’s home. Both sides will have lots of apprehensions, and it takes loads of time and effort for the two parties to settle into a relationship. Unfortunately, India is likely to miss that chemistry going into the World Cup, making it difficult for the players as well as the new coach. It is BCCI which has to take the blame squarely for not taking this decision after the debacle against Australia in 2012. Much drama is in store ahead for Indian cricket in the days ahead.
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(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/hnatarajan)