When Duncan Fletcher took over as India coach, the question being asked in a country, still in the grip of World Cup celebrations, was how he could do better than his predecessor Gary Kirsten.
On his first tour with a young India team, Fletcher has indicated that he brings that valuable attribute that ensures continuity.
In his first training session in Trinidad, the former England coach sat in the middle of the Queen’s Park Oval and gave a team chat. Since then, he has slipped into the shadows, letting the players bask in their achievement of a series win.
The 62-year-old believes it is important to understand the players he will be dealing with instead of trying to thrust his ideas on them. During his long stint with England (1999-2007), Fletcher won the trust of the players and nurtured talent that peaked in the 2005 Ashes defeat of Australia.
In the West Indies, Fletcher has chosen to talk to individual players to suggest a smooth transition from the Kirsten era.
“It is important to understand how they think. People understand messages in different ways. If you rush in, you can destroy players,” he says. “It is important to have one on ones, as players are relaxed in conversations.”
Fletcher is convinced India have the best talent pool in the world at the moment. Kirsten recommended him to the job and he has taken inputs from the South African.
Some of the talent he will be dealing with will be precious for India.
Batsmen such as Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have spoken about a newfound confidence and focus after their attitude was questioned. Fletcher knows he will have to tread cautiously.
Rohit has benefited from Sachin Tendulkar’s influence and it showed in his demonstration as a finisher for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
Kirsten owed much of his success and popularity among the players to gaining their confidence. Tendulkar, in particular, has discovered a fresh vigour.
For Fletcher, travelling across the Caribbean and staying in team hotels that are often five-star beach resorts, has provided a calm environment, as unlike back home, few mill around the players.
These are early days yet. The Test series and the England tour will make bigger demands of him. But a good start never hurts.