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Fletcher fear for hosts

With so little to choose between England and India, it will be that something extra which will make the difference in the outcome of the four-match Test series.

cricket Updated: Jul 19, 2011 23:26 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal

With so little to choose between England and India, it will be that something extra which will make the difference in the outcome of the four-match Test series.

Not everyone was pleased with Duncan Fletcher's choice for the Indian coach's job. It was like bringing back the 62-year-old out of semi-retirement. However, in the all-important England series, Fletcher could well be India's X-factor and help them turn the tables on the hosts.

As India and England square up for the No 1 crown, equally fascinating to follow will be the off-the-field battle between two Zimbabweans; Fletcher in India's corner and Andy Flower in England's corner.

The India coach certainly starts the contest with a massive edge. His experience as a former England coach will provide the visiting team's think tank elaborate data to work on. Powered by Fletcher's inputs of the home players and conditions, tactically, India are expected to hold the advantage.

Deeper study
To counter the Fletcher factor, statements have been put out by the England players about every detail of every player being available to everyone in this age of technology. But one can sense some wariness in the home camp.

It's not just about dissecting a players technique, the unease is the thought that available to the opponent will be every detail of the player's thinking process, his psychological make-up
and how he will react to a particular situation. It is information beyond the purview of technology.

Having been their coach from 1999 to 2007, Fletcher has worked with most of the leading England players who will be in the playing XI — skipper Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, James Anderson and Graeme Swann.

While Bell admitted it will be a massive advantage for India, skipper Strauss, trying to make light of Fletcher's presence in the opposite camp, said: "Planning is alright but what is important is how one executes things on the field."

Home advantage
England usually thrive on home advantage because the visiting teams can struggle to adapt to the unpredictable conditions. Fletcher should neutralise that advantage too. He's spent almost all his time as a player and coach in England.

From his one-to-one talks with the batsmen at the net session on Monday, it looked like the grey-haired coach was focusing mainly on tightening the batsmen's technique, of playing close to the body.

From all indications, Fletcher is certainly making his mark in the Indian dressing room. "He's calm and is a good presence in the dressing room. His technical knowledge is very good. You can make out, he's someone who's been around a long time," said Rahul Dravid.

In fact, it was Flower who was the Indian cricket board's first choice to succeed Gary Kirsten. The Indian board believes he is the best coach in the world, and they would want him once he's done with England. It can also be billed as a battle between the current and future India coaches.