Hands on the waist, Duncan Fletcher stood at the centre of the practice area of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Oblivious to the deliveries and shots, his mind was perhaps away from cricket.
It isn’t unusual to be lost in what’s in store over the next two months. Fletcher has survived the proverbial axe many times, but it’s unlikely his contract, which ends with the World Cup, will be extended.
It took MS Dhoni, who was going through his bowling routine, to nudge the Zimbabwean. A gentle query brought Fletcher back to the present. Like a man determined to end his task with dignity, the usually-restrained coach was as animated as he has been in a while and there was added energy in his steps.
By now, selectors Vikram Rathour and Roger Binny had joined them. Fletcher walked up for a chat, before taking charge of the session. He interacted with almost every player, giving them a patient hearing.
Fletcher adjusted the on-side net when Suresh Raina walked in for practice. He spoke to him, Ambati Rayudu and Ajinkya Rahane after they had completed their batting stints. The talk was about footwork, interspersed with gestures. He even took time out to explain how Mohit Sharma, a tail-ender, could improve his feet movement.
As the session wore on, Fletcher was back at the centre. This time, with Dhoni and Virat Kohli in tow.
After a while, Dhoni excused himself, but the chat with Kohli went on for some time. After all, the future rests on him.
Fletcher seemed intent on building bridges with the new generation, a quality he was accused of lacking as England coach and later with the Men in Blue.
His preference for Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles, even after they were past their prime, was a talking point in England. Fletcher’s difficulty to accept change continued with the India team — be it the reserves not getting regular chances in dead rubbers or R Ashwin, who has been ineffective overseas, being persisted with.
But Saturday was different. Communication lines appeared to have cleared by the refreshingly pro-active coach on the eve of India’s first game.
It may be too late to correct the wrongs during his India stint but it could allow him to walk out with the head held high if the team achieves glory in the tri-series and World Cup.