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Fletcher aloof, but not alone, as India close in on World Cup

cricket Updated: Aug 29, 2014 01:50 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times
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Duncan Fletcher cuts a forlorn figure these days. Widely respected in cricketing circles in England because of the work he has done with the English team, he has turned into a villain in Indian cricket.

Sitting quietly and aloof during the entire three-hour train journey from Cardiff to Nottingham, Fletcher, dressed in long-sleeved maroon shirt and jeans, either looked vacantly at the green fields that rushed past, or closed his eyes and lightly tapped his fingers to the music that played through his earphones.

The India team's newest boss Ravi Shastri, sitting very close but on the other side of the aisle and facing the opposite direction, looks to be in the hot seat, at least figuratively.

Despite the chill and damp weather that forced players to wear jackets and jumpers, he was comfortable in shorts and a half-sleeved T-shirt.

Opener Shikhar Dhawan, going through a bad patch, walked up to him and asked something. Shastri nodded.

We'll never know the real picture due to restrictions by the BCCI on players speaking to the media, but you do get a hint of the changed hierarchy.

But then Fletcher does look unfazed. He has the backing of the skipper, and that should be good for now.

He has begun this series very well after the hammering his team got in ODIs in South Africa and New Zealand.

For those who follow English cricket, Fletcher was astute, and extremely good on technical aspects during his time as England coach.

You can find plenty of comments in praise of the Zimbabwean. He was tough too. Former England opener Marcus Trescothick points out how on a tour to South Africa he pulled up the merry-making, underperforming English team, and cited the discipline of Jacques Kallis as an example.

With this young India team, very much in need of lessons on technique and discipline, it seems different.

The views of former players suggest that his ineffectiveness stems from a difference in communication level, culture or plain inability of players to imbibe the lessons he gives from behind the nets.

What Fletcher does well is stay removed from the turbulence around. He enjoys Dhoni's trust.

It is widely believed that he barely interferes in Dhoni's selection policies. The decision rests with the skipper - who to play and who not to play is the realm of the Indian captain and not the coach.

Thus we had Ishwar Pandey, coming into the squad for the New Zealand tour as the leading domestic pace bowler and impressing in a warm-up, but not finding a place in the India eleven there. Though he was promptly picked to play for Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings IPL team soon after.

At other times, some players get picked only due to their showing in the IPL.

With the World Cup just 3-4 series away though, you can empathise a bit with Dhoni, who probably feels sudden changes can throw a spanner in the works and this isn't the right time to tinker with the side.