Born September 27, 1948, Duncan Andrew Gwynne Fletcher was the first Zimbabwe captain. He was also the coach of England and India, and considered to be the man who played the most vital role in the progress of English cricket team in early 21st century. On his 67th birthday, Abhishek Kumar digs out 15 interesting things to know about the cricketer turned coach.

1.  Sporting family

Fletcher hailed from a family of sport persons. His brother Allan Fletcher played First-Class matches for Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and sister Ann-Mary Gwynne Grant was the captain of Zimbabwe women’s hockey team which won a gold medal in 1980 Moscow Olympics (the first gold medal in the history of Zimbabwe). In the same team another Zimbabwean cricketer Sean Williams’ mother was also playing.

2.  Played a crucial role in qualifying Zimbabwe for World Cup

Fletcher was active in domestic cricket since 1969 and later went on to represent Zimbabwe in ICC Trophy, where he played an important role in qualifying his team for the first World Cup. In the final match against Bermuda, Fletcher took 3 for 34 and ended the tournament with 6 wickets at 24.50 and scored 82 runs at 27.33.

3.  First captain of Zimbabwe

Fletcher had a dream debut in international cricket: it was Zimbabwe’s first match; it was a World Cup; he top-scored with 69 not out; he was the best bowler with 4 for 45; he was Man of the Match; and Zimbabwe upset Australia. Could it get any better?

4.  Post retirement

Fletcher retired from playing cricket after the home series in 1984-85. Post retirement he tried few Government Jobs and further moved to the Treasury Company Bureau, where he played an important role in identifying the number-plate in cases of hit and run.

5.  The real struggle begins

As the dark period of Robert Mugabe begun in Zimbabwe, Fletcher till then had a family with wife Marina and two children Michael and Nicola. It was clear that education was of no worth in the country and he could not afford British Universities and also he could not take out the nation’s currency to another, so Fletcher decided to move to South Africa without a job and with a mere R4,000 in cash.

6.  First international coaching job

After arriving in South Africa, he got a job as the coach of Western Province and the team won the Currie Cup. He got another offer from Glamorgan and that team too won the tournament in his first season as coach after 28 seasons. On the other side, England couldn’t qualify to the second round of 1999 World Cup, as a result of which David Lloyd was replaced with Fletcher, who became the first person to take this post without having any experience of Test cricket. He was also the first foreign coach for England.

7.  Time takes it turn

England’s first victory under Fletcher came against his own nation — Zimbabwe. Following this, England continued to show progress under his reign by winning the Wisden Trophy after 31 years by 3-1.

8.  The connoisseur

Fletcher had the ability to spot talent — the most famous among which were Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff.

9.  Forward Press

During England’s tour of Pakistan in 2000, Fletcher introduced a technique named ‘forward press’ to his team which helped them in playing against Saqlain Mushtaq and as a result of which they won the Test series in Pakistan after 39 years.

10.  Gavaskar-Fletcher brawl

When England’s tour of India in 2001, they lost the Test series by 0-1 and during the series Fletcher advised Giles to bowl a defensive to Sachin Tendulkar outside leg, which led to the beginning of Gavaskar – Fletcher brawl. “The approach was good for people suffering from insomnia,” said Gavaskar and also added, “Thank God it was a three-Test series and not a five-Test one, for Indian cricket would have lost a great number of spectators seeing the fare dished out.”

In return, Fletcher replied in a gentle way and said, “First, it’s very important to realise that he [Gavaskar] is on the ICC panel and should have an unbiased opinion; and second, it is very sad when a good wine goes sour. I was very disappointed with Gavaskar.”

It is to be noted that Gavaskar himself had once scored a 174-ball 36 not out in a 335-run chase.

11.  Citizenship granted

Since 1986-87, England had not won a single Ashes series till Fletcher took over. England finally regained The Ashes in 2005 under Fletcher’s tenure. As reward, Fletcher was granted the British citizenship.

12.  An anonymous period

Fletcher continued his coaching period with England till 2007, following which he tried his hands in rugby coaching but ended up taking the role of consultancy with Hampshire in 2008. His role continued with South Africa during their tour to Australia in 2008-09 (where they stopped Australia’s winning streak at home) and with New Zealand in 2010-11.

13.  Finally some light: Fletcher appointed as the coach of Indian team

After taking several consultancy roles for different teams, Fletcher was recommended by Gary Kirsten as the next coach of Indian cricket team. Kirsten’s advice was taken seriously, and Fletcher was hired.

14.  Criticism

The decision of appointing Fletcher as Indian coach was criticised by former cricketers — especially since he was preferred over Mohinder Amarnath, Stephen Fleming and Andy Flower. Kapil Dev went on to say: “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.”

15.  Awards and accolades

Throughout his cricketing career, whether as player or coach, Fletcher was recognised with several awards. He was first awarded in 1975 as South African Cricket Annual Cricketer of the Year for his performance in that season, where he took 33 wickets from 9 matches at 18.69. When England sealed the series against New Zealand by 3-0 following with West Indies by 4-0 in their soil, Fletcher was inducted into Britain’s Coaching Hall of Fame as they won seven consecutive Tests.

After England regained the Ashes in 2005, he was honoured with Order of British Empire, following with John Bromley Medal for the Male Coach of the Year.

Inputs from Abhishek Mukherjee

(Abhishek Kumar is a cricket devotee currently staffing with Criclife.com. He can be followed at abhicricket.kumar and abhishekkr2593)