'India were overconfident in SA and NZ' - Fletcher
Duncan Fletcher, the India coach, has said that his players were "overconfident" on the tours to South Africa and New Zealand and ended up complicating their games, something he wants them to learn from and avoid in England.
India lost their last two Test series overseas by a 1-0 margin. They set South Africa a target of 458 in the first Test in Johannesburg, before the hosts held on for a thrilling draw, finishing within striking distance of the target. The second Test was claimed by South Africa, who won by 10 wickets, chasing down India's target of 58. In New Zealand, India fell 40 runs short in the first Test and were then thwarted by New Zealand, who saved the second Test after being dismissed for 192 in the first innings.
"With these young boys I felt they could have been a little overconfident when they went to South Africa and New Zealand because they had done so well in India," Fletcher told bcci.tv. "As the series went, it made them realise that playing away from home is very difficult. They believe that they have learnt from those tours and so there is positivity in the camp but the overconfidence has gone. But again, until you actually go out there and play a game, you will never know if you actually have learnt."
The biggest mistake the India players committed, according to Fletcher, was making their games complicated. "The batsmen, for instance, tried to bat a little too differently than they would in India," he said. "The only actual difference was they had to get used to a bit more bounce. Because of this bounce, when it comes to the short ball, you just have to make up your mind whether you're going to play or leave it. In India, you can play it on a consistent basis.
"For the bowlers the length changes a little; you have to bowl a bit fuller when you go overseas. And it's not an easy thing to do, especially for a young bowler. You've been groomed and trained your brain to bowl a certain way and even if the difference is only 6-12 inches, it's not easy to make the change instantly and that too under pressure.
"We see experienced international players' games altering under pressure. Now here is an inexperienced side with players who are still learning their game and they will take time to get used to the varied challenges."
India are without Zaheer Khan in England and though Ishant Sharma has played 55 Tests, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Varun Aaron have a combined 13 Tests between them, and Ishwar Pandey and Pankaj Singh are yet to debut. Fletcher said that while his pace attack was raw, it had a lot of variety.
"The bowlers are pretty inexperienced. We haven't really got anyone to lead the group and we haven't taken 20 wickets in a Test since quite a while now. But for once we have a good variety in our pace attack. They are still pretty inexperienced but experience can also come from learning quickly, and we hope they have done that. It will be so very crucial for them as a unit to stay disciplined and not try too much. It's just about ensuring that we get these young men's minds right."
The BCCI had asked former India captain Rahul Dravid to spend some time with the team ahead of the series on the team management's request. Fletcher said Dravid's presence would help not only the batsmen, but also the bowlers, who the coach wanted to think like batsmen do.
"People would think I have called him to help the batsmen," Fletcher said. "But actually it's as much for the bowlers. What people don't understand is that the bowlers think like bowlers. I want Rahul to talk to them and make them think like batsmen. That way they will know what areas a batsman likes and doesn't like, which will help them a great deal in forming their strategies. The problem is that the Indian bowlers don't bat or practise batting when they're playing domestic cricket. And so, while they understand their bowling, they don't understand batting.
"Rahul can play a role right through. His approach and his character is so good. I've really enjoyed talking cricket with Rahul. I really rated him and wanted him back in the side for some time now. We've had some chats since he got here and discussed various ideas and possibilities. What I also like about him is that he can relate to the players culturally. Also, if a player gets the same message from more than one person, he is going to be more convinced about it."
Dravid was India's most successful batsman on the previous tour of England in 2011 and since then, the team has been in transition since with several experienced players retiring or being dropped. Fletcher said his coaching methods had also changed as he had to deal with young players now.
"Fortunately for me, I went through a similar phase with England where the older players were left out or retired and a whole new generation of cricketers came in. The major difference is that with the older ones you just sit back and let them come to you. No matter how good and experienced one is, bad habits sometimes creep in and you've got to help them get rid of those small bad habits without being too overbearing.
"The younger players are a bit reluctant because they don't understand their game fully. So, you've got to go to them and talk to them. However, you have to make sure you send the message very clearly because otherwise they can get confused and start making their game more difficult. You keep the communication very simple and don't make more than one change at a time, even though some players might require more than one change - technically and mentally. The key is to change only one link of the chain at a time. If you change two, you don't know which one will confuse the player. That's why it takes time. Cricket is not an easy game to improve at in a short time."