December 7, 2001

Fletcher backs Foster after difficult debut


James Foster
Foster - Harbhajan Singh victim
Photo CricInfo

James Foster has received the full support of the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, after his difficult Test debut in Mohali.

Foster missed a catch and a straightforward stumping, and was out cheaply in each innings trying to sweep Harbhajan Singh as the tourists lost by 10 wickets. Foster also made a poor start to the recent one-day series in Zimbabwe, dropping a straightforward catch, but he recovered later in the series.

"Obviously when some chances go down you are concerned but I have seen it happen to other young guys," said Fletcher.

"People forget what Mark Boucher was like in his first few games. How well did Rod Marsh keep early on?

"Every time a young player comes in he gets compared to the old, experienced guy going out. People don't realise what the great players were like when they started out.

"Did he (Foster) keep badly before this game? I thought he kept very well in the warm-up games. In Zimbabwe, those last couple of games and those catches he took were great, he didn't drop anything."

Fletcher added: "Our fielding overall was the one area I found strange in Mohali. We dropped some simple catches. But it's about confidence and the concentration levels have got to be up all the time.

"At the end of the day you want to be saying `please Mr Batsman nick me a catch'."

There is no doubt that England also missed Alec Stewart, Darren Gough, Andy Caddick and Robert Croft, all of whom were unavailable for the tour.

"I would like to have a full Test side all the time, Fletcher conceded.

"That is why we tried to get these guys to play so we can put the strongest side out that England can put on the field. When you turn around and say `if you miss out on one set of Tests you may miss out on another series' is that not enough pressure?

"I wouldn't say I feel let down (by their decisions), I am just disappointed. You are always going to be at a disadvantage if you are missing four or five players and the opposition are at full strength.

"We know how difficult it is to play in India; Australia came with a full side as the number ones in the world and they struggled. But for every negative there is a positive. These young guys have come out here and have the potential to grow in the game."

Meanwhile Ashley Giles, who took 17 wickets in Pakistan this time last year, is unlikely to be fit for the second Test at Ahmedabad next Tuesday. Despite cortisone injections his bruised heel, which has developed after his recent Achilles operation, is still not fully recovered.

"We want him to play, he was and is a key figure and that's why we brought him out here," Fletcher said.

"Hopefully he can be fit for the second Test, if not the third Test. But we won't leave it too late before making a decision, he will have to bowl some balls in the nets first."

If Giles is unfit England will probably go into the second Test with two off-spinners, with Martyn Ball joining Richard Dawson in the XI.