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HindustanTimes Sat,01 Nov 2014
Team India coach Duncan Fletcher's exit looks a matter of time
Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times
London, August 19, 2014
First Published: 22:58 IST(19/8/2014)
Last Updated: 08:48 IST(20/8/2014)

With his wings clipped, it remains to be seen how long Duncan Fletcher will fly. On paper, the Zimbabwean continues as coach but a situation has been created where he is unlikely to have any role to play in the India dressing room.

The Indian cricket board has finally wielded the axe on the coaching staff. The second innings capitulation at The Oval, in just 29 overs, was the last straw although the message was clear about Fletcher after the first morning at Old Trafford.

On a fast and bouncy track, in pace perfect conditions, the decision to bat first was inexplicable. And being the man with the best knowledge of English conditions, Fletcher was supposed to be providing the expert inputs.

Duncan Fletcher (R) chats with captain MS Dhoni during a practice session at The Oval in London. (AP file photo)

It was a poor call. And James Anderson and Stuart Broad wreaked havoc. The team never recovered from the first half an hour of play. Fletcher being a former England coach, India should have held all the aces. But strategising was poor in the last three series against his former team. In nine Tests under Fletcher in England, MS Dhoni's team has lost seven. India lost 2-1 at home too.

Changes brewing
Dhoni is not known to be keen to stay after next year's World Cup, so the Board may continue to give him a long rope, otherwise an entirely new set-up to run the team is being put in place. From the looks of it, Ravi Shastri will be mainly there to keep Fletcher in check, if he doesn't resign by then that is. Bangar is the likely candidate to be handed the reins.

Read: Coach Fletcher sidelined as Shastri is ODI in-charge for Team India

For the fielding coach, the penny seemed to have dropped when India failed to establish a strong slip cordon. Under Trevor Penney, India's catching and fielding was guaranteed to improve with the exit of the ageing players. To the frustration of everyone, it didn't happen.

Catches have been put down at crucial times, which cost India matches. The most crucial let-off in this series came in the third Test at Southampton, when Ravindra Jadeja dropped embattled rival skipper Alastair Cook on 15.

The England captain went on to make 95. It turned the series on its head.

The experiments in the slip cordon continued. If Shikhar Dhawan was at first slip at the start, Murali Vijay took over in the fourth Test. Cook would say it made no difference. He was twice dropped at first slip in the fifth Test, by Vijay and then by Ajinkya Rahane.

No clue
Even more glaring was how out of position Penney's slip fielders were, and how it was affecting their catching, as pointed out by VVS Laxman. Too many catches fell short because the first slip was too deep. These were basic mistakes.

The other factor that could have gone against Penney was his total submission to Dhoni. While the England fielding coach spends a lot of time training his 'keeper, the most important fielder, Penney was rarely seen putting Dhoni through his paces. A number of chances went begging behind the stumps.

Column: Skipper MS Dhoni should reassess himself

Though this was one of the better tours for the bowlers, overall under Joe Dawes, there's been little to shout about the bowling. It was for the performances in South Africa and New Zealand that Dawes has paid the price.

India should have won Tests in both the series, but the bowlers couldn't get wickets in the second innings. Winning positions were spurned, first at Johannesburg, and then in the drawn second Test in Wellington, skipper Brendon McCullum was dropped early and went on to smash a triple ton.

Declining form
In England too, the pace bowling tapered off after the first two Tests. It was to be a long summer and the team management was unable to manage the fitness and form of players.

Mohammed Shami was unable to hit any sort of rhythm. He kept bowling aimlessly in the nets, in fact was over bowling himself on the eve of the Tests and then looked ragged in the match. There were glaring technical issues as well, like the front shoulder dropping.

Read: BCCI explains why Ravi Shastri has been asked to take the reins

Another reflection on the bowling coach was the performance of Umesh Yadav, who lost his edge when he was with the India team. But with KKR, under Wasim Akram, he came roaring back.

Whether the changed set-up will work for India, it remains to be seen. But it sure is a warning to the other non-performers, including the players and the captain. It means the axe is not far away.

Also read:
Pujara, Kohli drop in Test rankings
Time to show responsibility, install a new leader for India's Test team


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