Fletcher to avoid dictatorial approach
Duncan Fletcher, the new Indian coach, has said that his coaching philosophy will not be dictatorial in approach but will be about offering advice to the players. Fletcher also pointed out that he had mentored Gary Kirsten and that was one of the main reasons that influenced Kirsten to recommend him for the post and for the BCCI to appoint him.
"It's not about dictating to the Indian players how I want them to play - sure to some degree you have to try influencing them - but it's about offering advice to the players and it's up to them to take it on board," Fletcher said in his first news conference as India's coach in Chennai. "Gary Kirsten followed my philosophy. He came and spoke to me before he took up the Indian job. I offered him advice on how to handle situations and he took that on board. And now, by Gary sort of pushing me for this job by taking my credentials to BCCI, he realised that my philosophy of coaching is right for India. Hopefully it's right."
Fletcher said that he has been observing the Indian players over the last few months during his role as batting consultant to South Africa and New Zealand and reiterated that he was not going to make any wholesale changes. According to him, the most important thing would be to gain the respect of the players and he said that works both ways. "You have to gain their respect and they have to gain my respect. And that's what this is about. Once you have that then it makes your job easier. It's something you just have to work on as time progresses. I have worked with some big players elsewhere as well and you just got to develop this man-management process.
"During the stint with South Africa and New Zealand I watched the Indian players. Sometimes I find more interest in quietly watching these players off the field and just observe because it interests me. "
A coach's relationship with the captain is the most crucial aspect of the job and Fletcher said he wouldn't have taken up the role if he didn't respect [MS] Dhoni as a captain. "It's quite important that even before I was offered this job I had high regard for Dhoni. In fact I wrote a few articles which showed how I rated him as a very very good captain - not only on the field but how he handles the players off it."
India's bowling is considered the team's weak link and Fletcher said he has had an extensive chat with Eric Simons, the bowling coach, on May 12 about the bowlers and also met with Dhoni. "Having chatted with Eric Simons - he is a very good bowling coach and one I have lot of faith in - you must understand that I don't want to come in and make lots of changes. I have the players during India's last tour of South Africa and the series against New Zealand; so I have some idea about the bowlers but I would want to observe a little bit and then make some decisions."
Fletcher said he was very excited taking up the coaching role and said he arrived at the decision after giving it a lot of thought and speaking to the likes of Kirsten. "I asked for four-five- days time from the board. It was just to make sure you settle down as there are some areas you have to be careful about because it's a high-profile role. I made a few calls, in particular to Gary Kirsten and I then accepted it."
India are the No.1 ranked Test team and ODI world champions and Fletcher admitted that it would be a challenge to maintain that momentum. "Yes, it will be difficult and that's one of the things you consider before taking up the job. Hopefully I can add value somewhere down the line. First West Indies, then we are going to England where there will be lots of swing and seam. Then Australia where there will be bounce. Hopefully, the knowledge I pass on will be effective."
Fletcher also had a brief taste of the Indian media and the Indian's board's iron-hand approach. Suddenly, out of the blue, he was asked about his views on DRS, a system that the Indian board has steadfastly opposed. "I think it's a system that will come in place. Obviously there are imperfections but once those imperfections are sorted out, it will play a role."
N Srinivasan, the board secretary, then leaned across and muttered something to Fletcher. Srinivasan, then, addressed the journalist who asked that question and said, "That was a loaded question. Mr Fletcher doesn't know BCCI's stance on DRS. You should have prefaced your question properly."
There was another instance of Srinivasan's interjection. When Fletcher was asked about his views on rotation policy, Srinivasan chose to answer: "It's a selection matter, no? He can give advice but ultimately it will come down to selectors. But I am sure when the coach sits in those meetings; his take will be taken on board by the selectors."
There was also a delightful faux pas from Fletcher. "Hopefully, my observations on these players will prove useful when I coach the England team. I mean the Indian team."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo