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HindustanTimes Sat,01 Nov 2014
Duncan Fletcher's role questioned after Old Trafford drubbing
Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times
Manchester, August 11, 2014
First Published: 02:21 IST(11/8/2014)
Last Updated: 02:34 IST(11/8/2014)

About a kilometre down the road from the Old Trafford cricket ground stands the imposing structure of Manchester United Football Club.

The legacy of one of the most successful football clubs is built around the work of their coaches (managers), top on the list being Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Scot's job was not about getting the boys to do day to day training, taking their fitness tests or work on their basics. That part was left to the coaching staff.

The master had built his legacy on man-management and chalking out strategies to destroy opposition.

As India succumbed to yet another defeat during the reign of Duncan Fletcher, the irony of it all was not lost on the locals.

Ask anyone, who has ever worked with Fletcher and you get almost the same response: "He's very good with the youngsters on the technical issues".

"When it comes to technical knowledge, I think Duncan is the most experienced. He has been helping Virat (Kohli) a lot and the other batsmen," skipper MS Dhoni said after the defeat.

But, is that the head coach's main role? Coming into the fourth Test, Fletcher and his staff was expected to lift the side's morale after the humiliation at Southampton.

Then it was about reworking strategy and team selection. For someone who knew the conditions as well as Fletcher did, he should have got it right.

It was known that Old Trafford was tailor-made for England. Going by the forecast, the simple strategy should have been to play safe and go for the jugular in the final Test at The Oval, where the conditions were likely to be more even.

UNIMPRESSIVE

On Saturday, it was the manner of defeat which surprised everybody.

"Since the early part of the Southampton Test, India have lost their fight and there is nothing worse than a seeing a team lose its competitive edge. I never mind seeing teams beaten by superior opponents but I hate seeing sides just giving up," said Michael Vaughan in his column.

Vaughan was England captain when Fletcher was coach in the mid-2000s and he knows the Zimbabwean better than anyone.

"He is very good with technical inputs, but I was not impressed with his man-management skills. He may have changed now, I am talking of my experience with him during the 2002 Ashes," said former England player Adam Hollioake, who was at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The most glaring aspect of India's humiliation was how they got it wrong from start: from misreading the conditions, to team combination, it was like a team on a death wish.

Picking two spinners and electing to bat under overcast conditions against two of the best new-ball operators, defied logic.

It led to a former cricketer saying: "Was there no one who knew these conditions? India should have hired a local consultant to get the right inputs."

It had slipped his mind that Fletcher played County in England, was a County coach and then England coach.

Sunday started with heavy rains and there was prediction of more on Monday, which would have been the final day. So it was a matter of batting out the Saturday's afternoon session.

There is no excuse for India's performance going down since the loss of Ishant Sharma. England too lost Stuart Broad to a freak injury in Manchester. And, did they respond well!

During the 2011 and 2012 defeats, there was an excuse that the seniors were over the hill. Here, we had a line-up brimming with youthful talent. Ironically, it's their technical deficiencies which are now exposed.

The kind of tactical miscalculations Dhoni made meant either he was not getting any inputs from the think-tank, or he was too stubborn.

This same England team lost to Sri Lanka just days before India landed.

If Dhoni and Co are unable to win at The Oval, starting 2011 in England, India would have lost all their away Test series.


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