Can Fletcher's guidance finally pay off in ODIs?
The Indian cricket team's disastrous campaign in England has taken some sheen off Duncan Fletcher's record as coach and he is now only left with the five-match ODI series, which starts in Chester-le-Street on Saturday, to gain some lost ground.
Fletcher is just two tours old in his present assignment as coach of the Indian team, but has so far been as inscrutable in deed as he appears on the field behind his dark glasses.
The Fletcher of England, who rang in some defining structural changes, bears little resemblance to the Fletcher of India who offers little explanation for some ludicrous decisions taken this summer.
Image: Duncan Fletcher
Fletcher has presented excuses for every bad performance
After India refused to go for the required 85 runs from 15 overs with seven wickets in hand during the Dominica Test in July, Fletcher had said the wicket was too slow to let that happen.
Now in England, he says the wickets have offered too much of seam and swing for his batters to do well.
Never did he criticise how Zaheer and RP Singh could straightaway walked into a Test XI without any match-fitness, how Virender Sehwag played when hardly fit and why practice sessions, more or less, are restricted to a few hits in the nets.
Image: Duncan Fletcher
'India are in very, very solid hands'
Yet former England captain Nasser Hussain feels Indians couldn't have had a better man for the job than Fletcher.
"India are in very, very solid hands. What Duncan did for English cricket is exceptional. He was the one who started the turnaround. A lot of what's been done to the England team, Duncan should take credit for," says Hussain.
In other words, for Fletcher to be effective, he ought to be given a free hand where he could prepare the youngsters for tomorrow; begin the process of easing out ageing stars and generally make fitness the primary norm for selection.
Image: Nasser Hussain
'They're a slightly ageing side and he has to introduce players'
"There's going to be a slight cultural thing -- he's going to want them to be fitter, better prepared and better trained, and they just love batting in the nets," stated Hussain.
"The modern way is to be in the nets and in the gym and work hard as well, so he's going to have to fight a bit of a battle there. But his results for England speak for themselves. It'll be a difficult job, because they'll want a continuation of the success they've got at the moment -- but Duncan's the right man to do that.
"They're a slightly ageing side and he has to introduce players, eventually put his arm around one of the greats and maybe move him sideways."
Image: Duncan Fletcher with captain MS Dhoni
'If he agreed to go with the Kirsten approach, he can't change now'
Former South African captain Kepler Wessels recently said: "The general consensus is that Fletcher was appointed as long as he continued with the same coaching style as Gary Kirsten. Gary allowed the senior players and superstars to run the show and do their own thing. The senior players wanted Gary to stay on but when that didn't happen, they wanted a like-for-like replacement.
"If he (Fletcher) agreed to go with the Kirsten approach, he can't change now. The situation is crying out for more control and a firm hand, but if he does flex his muscles, the players won't like it and it is unclear whether the Board will sanction a different approach."
By design or by accident, Wessels says Fletcher now finds himself between a "rock and a hard place".
Image: Gary Kirsten