Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 1st day January 3, 2012

Fletcher wants middle order to step up


Duncan Fletcher, under whose watch India have lost five straight away Tests and are struggling at the end of the first day of the sixth, would not say if he felt the Indian batsmen are doing badly, but hoped they, especially those in the middle order, would click together. India were bowled out for 190 after choosing to bat on a greenish SCG track, which would need diligent batting while the pitch was fresh; India lost four wickets in the first session.

Fletcher, however, chose to give credit to the Australian bowlers and blamed the lack of "fortune" when asked about the continuous problems the batting line-up has faced, which shows in how they have gone past 300 - a barely competitive score on a non-dodgy pitch - only once in their last 17 away innings.

"The mood in the change room has been very, very good," Fletcher said. "They have worked very hard at the nets. They are putting in the effort, they are trying their best. They are just some times in cricket we need a little bit of good fortune. If you see Sachin [Tendulkar] today, how many times do you play on from that width? Normally you put that through the covers for four. Sometimes it goes against you, sometimes it runs with you." Tendulkar was the only specialist batsman who looked at ease for a longish period, and played on when driving at a full and wide delivery.

Fletcher spoke of the importance of partnerships. The problem, he said, didn't lie with getting them started, but in converting them into big meaningful ones. "What's crucial is when we get a partnership going, we make sure we take advantage of it," he said. "At times we have got partnerships going, and then suddenly we lose wickets, and haven't been able to take that partnership further. It's crucial in Test cricket that you get those partnerships of 100 and 150 to get that big score that's required."

Fletcher said it was a matter of two or three of India's middle order performing well together. "It's important that they click together," he said. "As a unit they haven't scored consistently - all of them. I mean Rahul [Dravid] batted well in England. He has lost a little bit of form here. Sachin looks as though he is in good nick. There's just probably Laxy [VVS Laxman]. He is striking the ball well, he probably needs a little bit of good fortune. That middle order should be able to put in the good scores we require."

What makes the Indian failure all the more intriguing is that Fletcher is considered to be one of the best men going around when it comes to batting technique. He, though, chose not to speak too much about technical flaws. About Gautam Gambhir's struggle - he fell in the first over today - Fletcher spoke of the mental side of things.

"We have just been working on him to get more positive," Fletcher said. "That's what's crucial with Gautam. We are working on the sort of mental side of it, where we feel he has been quite tentative and pushing at balls instead of going out there and batting like he should. We have seen Gautam. He is an attacking batter. We are trying to get him to be a lot a more positive in his approach. Today the ball he got, it would have been difficult to leave that, pitching on leg stump, going across you. It probably would have got a few left-handers out so early on in your innings."

Fletcher wouldn't get drawn into a debate on the defensive fields that have been India's hallmark during this series. Today, when India could have ended the day close to even if they had taken another wicket towards stumps, India employed well-spread fields in the final few overs. "You have to give credit to the opposition at some stage," he said. "[Ricky] Ponting and [Michael] Clarke came out and batted positively. Clarke was pretty positive. There were a few loose shots upfront there. He looked under a bit of pressure. He could quite easily have nicked one of those early, and they could have been four down."

India's slide in Test cricket has coincided with Fletcher's appointment as the coach of the side when Gary Kirsten left after the World Cup success. He was asked what has gone wrong. "I don't think much has changed," Fletcher said. "I had long chats with Gary. I am very friendly with him. The approach, how you deal with an Indian side, we haven't changed that much."

When asked how bad it will get before it gets better, Fletcher said it could all change as soon as the next innings. "We are pretty confident that at some stage they will get the runs that are required," he said. "In the second innings, let's just wait and see what happens there.

"From tomorrow if we get through and keep them down to a similar score as us, that's not out of the question. I think we can put Australia under little bit of pressure if we bat well in the second innings."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roo on January 6, 2012, 2:15 GMT

    @Scallopian... Yes, agee that Laxman, et al, came out 20 days early... But they didn't play & prepare as a full team - just in nets... It seems a bit disjointed... Nothing beats time in the middle... I'm not picking on BCCI, CA have done the same in the past & I have been critical of their schedules... Also look at last years SCG Test & you will see a similar pattern - bowlers pitch for 4 sessions followed by flat track until later in 4th day when track starts breaking up more...

  • John on January 5, 2012, 18:07 GMT

    Karthik Raja on (January 04 2012, 06:39 AM GMT) - David Gravitas is just a realist. I'm sure he's annoyed with how all the Indian batsmen (inc Dravid) are performing right now

  • Roo on January 5, 2012, 7:32 GMT

    @Scallopian... Yes, agee that Laxman, et al, came out 20 days early... But they didn't play & prepare as a full team - just in nets... It seems a bit disjointed... I'm not picking on BCCI, CA have done the same in the past & I have been critical of their schedules... My point is "how important is Test cricket to the top boards running cricket?"... Obviously running 2nd to the TV media interests & who gets paid what! ... As to who gets selected for either team - we all know it is politics & payments...

  • sankalp on January 4, 2012, 22:14 GMT

    @zenboomerang- Yes, the BCCI is responsible for India's pre-test preparations. However, this is not a justification for India BLAMING its failures on lack of preparation. Even if preparation for the Australia tour was not ideal, it was definitely SUFFICIENT. Two tour games, the second of which, India VOLUNTARILY chose to shorten in order to get more batting practice. If you don't think Test specialists like Laxman, Dravid, etc. going to Australia well in advance (nearly 20 days in advance), JUST to get acclimatized to the conditions is a sign of advanced preparation, then I don't know what is. Keep in mind, I am NOT a supporter of BCCI scheduling policies- but the Australia preparation was reasonable. Even if India was slightly unprepared for the first Test, that is not their premier concern. Regardless of the first Test, the fact that India's batting failed in the second test (1st innings) as well, proves that there are clearly more important factors than lack of "practice matches."

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2012, 17:10 GMT

    First change i want is kick fletcher out !!! Honestly speaking who is duncan fletcher ?? A zimbabwe player who just played 7 odis !! 60 yrs old !! Oh god even kohli has more experience thn him !! Kick fletcher out .i surely dont under stand how the hell bcci has even considered him as the coach of indian team which was world no.1 in tests before he joined as coach now see where is india battling for no.5 position greattt .we need some experienced coach who has played a significant number of games and who has played all around the world and ypung and athletic and who has great batting skills like stephen fleming,sunil gavaskar,ian chappel or geoff marsh surely not a 60 yr old guy who has played just 7 odi's in his entire career hailong frm zimbabwe

    kudos to fletcher to swallowing off every thing what kirsten and dhoni did in past 3 yrs.if kirsten would have been indian coach atleadt he would have an exlerienxe on australian pitches,fielding tactics etc

  • Bhran on January 4, 2012, 9:52 GMT

    @YoBro: I agree with u mate, I wasn't dig fan of dravid / sachin but if dravid plays it ll be a draw at max.@ Dravid_Gravitas : in ur most of the comments ur pulling sachin, atleast he scored 41 ya it is not a good score for team. But till he scores runs, he is playing comfortably not like dravid, when the attacking field set, dravid start to struggle. By the Way Dravid is legend but he is getting old and no more worthy.

  • Harsh on January 4, 2012, 6:47 GMT

    Disappointed that India will lose this series only '4-0'. With their performance they deserve to lose this 'infinite-0'. Can't see them performing well without wholesale changes.Right now they are sliding down the abyss of low-confidence & there is just no way that they are gonna get out of it with current resources. Cricinfo Publish.

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2012, 6:39 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas.. As i hv told u b4, y bring SRT into conversation whn defending RD..?? Man, u r making sick of Dravid.. Such a legend he is.. And I am sure he wil b ashamed of having fans like u.. Its gud to criticize some1, bt not whn he is doing better than others.. Goin by ur argument, was the result any different whn Dravid had spine to stand up and deliver in Eng..?? If that was SRT who scored those runs in ENG, I am sure wt ur points wil b.. "Meaningless centuries.. Not @ winning cause.. Playing for himself.. Playing for records.. Centuries never mattered.. Exposed Tail-enders to remain NOT out.. He didnt score in 2nd Innings which is more important.. Put pressure on other batsmen by not rotating strikes.. Low strike rate.. Never applied pressure on bowlers.. etc etc.." Be honest and think of this comment.. I need a honest reply from u..

  • TR on January 4, 2012, 2:02 GMT

    @Kavindeven, I would agree with your point (that Kholi should be persisted with) if 1. he showed strong basics which he did not (example, FIGURING OUT OutsideOff balls & LEAVING THEM). 2. If other Ind youngsters with even more sound technique, fielding and consistent performances are given as much chance as Kholi got. How many matches he played for India including ODIs!. Compare that to the chances Mukund or Badri got.

  • V on January 4, 2012, 1:08 GMT

    @LillianThomson. If you want to identify genuine candidates for retirement you can start by looking at the runs made by Laxman and Ponting side by side with SRT. Punter averages around 36 while I am afraid VVS is even lower in 2011 overall and around 16 abroad.

  • No featured comments at the moment.