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Is Duncan Fletcher India's worst coach ever?

March 09, 2014 16:38 IST

Is Duncan Fletcher India's worst coach ever?

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Is it that foreign coaches don't succeed in India or is it that Fletcher is past his prime? asks Shakya Mitra.

India's defeat to Pakistan in the Asia Cup encounter last Sunday extended their recent run of poor form which has afflicted them since the tour of South Africa in One-Day Internationals. They have won just one match in their last 11 encounters, an alarming scenario given how well they had played in 2013.

More worryingly, their 4-0 thrashing at the hands of New Zealand away from home raises serious concerns about their World Cup defence next year, with New Zealand being one of the host countries.

India's problems in Test cricket are just as big. A near certain victory in the second Test against New Zealand was snatched away from them. This was the 12th consecutive Test since the opening game against England in July 2011 that India failed to win on foreign soil.

Back to back 4-0 losses in England and Australia made people ask whether India was heading for their lowest ebb ever. Following the twin 1-0 defeats in South Africa and New Zealand the voices have only got louder.


Image: India coach Duncan Fletcher (right) with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

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Wright-Ganguly regime brought new steel into Indian cricket

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While there's very high expectation now from India whether they play at home or away, it wasn't until 2000 under the John Wright-Sourav Ganguly regime that India really became a competitive side playing away.

In fact, there was a stretch of 45 games over 14 years between 1986 (when India triumphed 2-0 in England) and 2000 when India recorded just one away victory.

The Wright-Ganguly regime brought new steel into Indian cricket, a belief that they could fight and win not just at home but overseas as well. Under Wright, India recorded 10 victories in 28 away games.

The subsequent success that India enjoyed away from home under Greg Chappell (four wins in 12 away games) and in the Gary Kirsten era (nine wins in 23 away games) arguably came because of the solid platform built by Wright and Ganguly for Indian cricket.


Image: Former India captain Sourav Ganguly (right) with John Wright
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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In 15 away matches under Fletcher, India has lost 10

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Today, the man at the centre of the criticism about India's abysmal overseas record in recent times -- in Tests as well as ODIs -- is Duncan Fletcher, the Zimbabwean coach.

In 15 away matches under him, India has lost 10. The Zimbabwean, who never played Test cricket and only six ODIs as an all-rounder, came with the reputation of being the John Wright of English cricket for the manner in which he helped revitalise a team that was ranked at the bottom of the Test standings when he took over in 1999.

By the time he stepped down in 2007, England was a formidable Test team with overseas series victories in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa and an Ashes win. In contrast to his abysmal overseas record as coach of India, he had a pretty impressive 14 victories in 47 overseas Tests with England.


Image: Duncan Fletcher
Photographs: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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Fletcher rarely attends domestic matches

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Rahul Dravid suggests that despite his tremendous knowledge of the game, Fletcher hasn't been given the powers in Indian cricket to put that knowledge into practice. It is also fairly well known in Indian cricket circles that Fletcher rarely attends domestic matches, something that he did regularly when he was England coach.

Kapil Dev, on the other hand, argues that it is difficult for foreign coaches to succeed in India because of the communication gap with cricketers uncomfortable with English. The fact that India has done reasonably well with other foreign coaches makes this generalisation weak. The issue here is Fletcher who has failed to deliver.

It's possible that the inspiration has been dried out of Fletcher. He was a messiah for England but on the evidence of the recent past, it is difficult to imagine him having the same impact for India in whatever time is left for him here. He is, as they say, possibly past his sell-by date.


Image: Duncan Fletcher
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

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