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July 2, 2006
Mid-way through the series, the excuse of injuries to key personnel began to wear thin among the media. The young players drafted in weren't performing to the best of their ability - Jamie Dalrymple excepted - as Sri Lanka exposed the softest of underbellies. However, Fletcher defended his team in the aftermath of the most humiliating trouncing.
"It doesn't reflect our ability," Fletcher said. "We had to pick a squad of 14 after the Australians toured and we are missing eight of those 14. It would be very interesting if Sri Lanka were missing eight of their players and we had eight of our players back. That is the formula you have to look at. What then would the result have been?"
The eight Fletcher speaks of include Andrew Flintoff, England's talismanic allrounder, cheerleader and "go to guy". Had he been fit and firing, he would almost certainly have captained England ahead of Strauss whose introduction to international leadership was as uncompromising as it gets.
"You must give him [Strauss] credit for some of his captaincy under such difficult circumstances," Fletcher insisted. "It takes a bit of time with young players and we have a lot of young players, who have tried their damnedest and you cannot fault them for trying.
"Normally when you reach a period of rebuilding you would leave four or five players out of the squad, here we are leaving eight out and it takes time to build a side," he added.
"You look at any sport - how long did it take for people to build their rugby sides, their soccer sides? How long did it take us to build that cricket side that went on to win the Ashes? It took three or four years to build that."
England's selectors will this week decide on Michael Vaughan's replacement as captain for the first Test against Pakistan which gets underway at Lord's on July 13. Though Flintoff captained against Sri Lanka in the Test series earlier this summer, he too is likely to miss the first Test.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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