England April 30, 2011

Why Fletcher isn't right for India

And why England's players decided against industrial action

Tuesday, 26th April Today Alastair Cook called our attention to the plight of dozens of downtrodden cricket professionals, some of them earning as little as £100,000 per annum, who are forced to fly first-class, to train to a peak of fitness at someone else’s expense and to spend days at a time in five-star hotels. Comrade Cook complained that the modern cricketer doesn’t have enough say and implied that something ought to be done about it, whilst playing John Lennon’s “Power To The People” through his iPod speakers.

As a mood of militancy swept the golf courses, top-quality gymnasia and exclusive nightclubs of the nation, there were rumours that the England team might be about to go on strike. But after urgent talks, the Association of Stodgy Top-Order Grinders, the Federation of Flashy Cameo-Makers and the Union of Bowlers and Twitterers all agreed to cancel the planned industrial action on the grounds that actually they were rather well-paid, had lots of time off and really had very little to complain about.

Thursday 28th April The news that bookmakers have been arrested and some may have confessed to making death threats against Zulqarnain Haider has not gone down well at the PCB. Officials are being instructed to exercise extreme caution in opening newspapers, and in the event of being exposed to suggestions that the match-fixing problem is widespread, have been taught advanced emergency techniques, such as carefully inserting one finger into each ear and making, “la la la la la” noises.

I have had some personal experience in dealing with bookies. Not the kind you might find hanging around a hotel bar, offering leather jackets and well-stuffed envelopes to gullible young sportsmen. No, I’m talking about a different breed. In Pakistan, the bookies may be illegal, but they will at least take a bet. Here in Britain we have the opposite problem. Perfectly legal bookies who are reluctant to entertain the idea of taking your money if they think you might win. Prison’s too good for ‘em.

Friday, 29th April Kapil Dev doesn’t think Duncan Fletcher should be Indian coach on the grounds that he doesn’t really know who the man is and doesn’t remember him doing much as a player. Fortunately, India don’t select their coaches on the basis of whether Kapil has ever bumped into him at a social event or what kind of batting average he ended up with. Greg Chappell was one of the greatest batsmen of all time and Gary Kirsten wasn’t. But which of them is the better coach?

If there is a policy of deliberately not picking an Indian coach, then that of course would be absurd. But since we have no evidence that is the case, we have to assume that the BCCI has fallen back on the old-fashioned method of picking the best candidate from among the applicants. What counts against Fletcher most of all is not his sometimes gruff demeanour, his playing career or the fact that he doesn’t speak Hindi. It’s the fact that John Buchanan thinks he’s the right man for the job.

Be afraid India. Be very afraid.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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