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Googlies, a bouncer and a faux pas

Largely impassive through his brief maiden interaction with the Indian media, there were a only a few glimpses of the real Duncan Fletcher that bubbled over the veil

Sriram Veera in Chennai

May 13, 2011

Comments: 9 | Text size: A | A

'Cheers to you all' - Duncan Fletcher signs off with a beer and a broad smile, England v West Indies, Super Eights, Barbados, April 21, 2007
No smiling business: India's new coach Duncan Fletcher remained largely impassive through his first interaction with the Indian media © Getty Images
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The first thing about Duncan Fletcher that stood out in his maiden press conference in India was his expression - or lack of it. He maintained a largely impassive face over the brief interaction - all of 19 minutes - but there were a few glimpses of the man that occasionally bubbled over the veil.

The first came when he was asked whether his philosophy of coaching would suit India and its prevailing superstar culture. He didn't hem or haw, he didn't say he would try to fit in, he didn't say that he was hopeful; instead he nailed the question swiftly and effectively. "Gary Kirsten followed my philosophy … and now, by Gary sort of pushing me for this job by taking my credentials to the BCCI, he realised that my philosophy of coaching is right for India." There was no trace of arrogance; just a statement of fact: Kirsten's way was his way (or even the other way round).

This conference will probably be the gentlest that Fletcher will attend during his tenure. There were around 15 journalists, a motley group from the print and electronic media, and public attention was focused squarely on the election results from five states including West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. For perhaps the first and last time, an Indian coach's press conference wasn't even carried live. It was the calm before the storm.

Yet, even in this short span of time Fletcher had to fend off a couple of googlies. Out of the blue came a question about the DRS, which the BCCI has opposed vehemently for some time now. Perhaps unaware of the background, Fletcher said the DRS was here to stay. "I think it's a system that will come in place. Obviously there are imperfections but once they are sorted out, it will play a role." Barely had he completed his reply did N Srinivasan, the BCCI secretary sitting alongside, intervened. He first turned to Fletcher, whispered something to him and turned to the questioner: "That was a loaded question. Mr Fletcher doesn't know the BCCI's stance on DRS. You should have prefaced your question properly. Anyway, it doesn't matter." Fletcher, as ever, wore that impassive cloak on his face.

Later, he was asked his views on the player rotation policy. Again, Srinivasan chose to interject. "It's a selection matter, no? He can give advice but ultimately it will come down to the selectors. But I am sure when the coach sits in on those meetings his views will be taken on board by the selectors."

The cumulative effect of those two brief statements was seen when Fletcher was asked about the possibility of seniors retiring. "That's up to the selectors," he said. "My job is to go out there and offer advice to the players on how to handle some situations. I believe if a player is good enough to play - no matter what his age- he should play. India is fortunate to have outstanding senior players."

There was another moment where his strong character came through, when his unimpressive ODI record as coach of the England team was brought up. "It's interesting," Fletcher began, clearly warming up. "I know that was bandied about [in the media]. But when I left Western Province, and Glamorgan, I had a better record in ODIs...if you go and look at my record there. It was somewhere along 13 matches, I think, for Western Province that played against England sides at first-class level. I didn't lose a match against England … When I played for Zimbabwe, we only played ODIs. As it turned out, we (England) had a better record statistically in tests but I am very comfortable with ODIs."

There was only one genuine faux pas from Fletcher. "Hopefully, my observations on the players will prove useful when I coach the England team."

"I mean the Indian team."

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by StarHawk on (May 16, 2011, 2:04 GMT)

@ Spelele, roffl its hillarious..You still think we're living in the 17th century where the British dominated this sport. Wake up buddy..this is the 21st century..and India are the #1 Test team and the World Cup champions.

Posted by Biggus on (May 14, 2011, 7:41 GMT)

This Srinivasan character seems like a real control freak. They could have bought a cardboard cut-out of Fletcher and stood him there instead. Why bother with the real thing? Leave your brains at the door please, and please also do not express any opinions not endorsed by the BCCI, AKA N. Srinivasan. What has this guy done to deserve such clout, apart from being obscenely rich? If I were Indian I'd have premonitions of disaster, but since I'm not perhaps I should just shut up and watch.

Posted by pr3m on (May 13, 2011, 23:43 GMT)

Will you guys leave out the mistake he made? Everybody slips in their speech sometimes, and seeing it being bandied around like some Freudian slip isn't the most appealing.

Posted by Spelele on (May 13, 2011, 17:40 GMT)

Well Mr Fletcher better enjoy being the Indian coach while he can. Soon, after being belted by his former side England, he will have to answer a lot of questions. India can never again beat England in England with the current lot. While their batsmen will be exposed because they can't play on swinging pitches, their bowlers are too pathetic to exploit the favourable conditions. Grandpa Zaheer is simply too old now. The others are not even worth mentioning. It is really funny how BCCI is trying to get their mediocre bowlers' confidence up in the IPL by doctoring the speed-guns. It's hilarious when ordinary bowlers like Ishant are depicted to be bowling at 150 while the best bowler in the world is in the low 130s when we all know that its the other way around. The idea of course is to make their bowlers feel like a Steyn for a day. But come the England series, these mediocre bowlers will show why they can never reach Steyn's level. I predict Mr Fletcher to be on his way pretty soon:)

Posted by Raki99 on (May 13, 2011, 17:02 GMT)

media needs to show some restraint, give him couple of series before you start critisizing his every move and everything he says.

Posted by Irarum on (May 13, 2011, 16:31 GMT)

Why the heck is Mr.NS there with him and interjecting every time. I fear for the days of next BCCI president. It will be a one man show for world cricket.

Posted by   on (May 13, 2011, 15:23 GMT)

Coaching Indian team is one of the most difficult task in cricketing world, and fans can have unreasonable expectations, you as a coach can have to answer some (unreasonably) difficult questions even after losing couple of games. But, the flip side is that you'll be revered forever if you succeed here (ask Gary Kirsten and John Wright). Good luck Mr Fletcher, we all look forward to a new era under you.

Posted by   on (May 13, 2011, 14:25 GMT)

Brilliant article. Based on his replies, he does sound confident. A clear proof of that was when he dodged the 'DRS bullet' with relative ease....

Posted by ForTeamIndia on (May 13, 2011, 13:26 GMT)

Hhaha.... "The cumulative effect of those two brief statements was seen when Fletcher was asked about the possibility of seniors retiring. "That's up to the selectors," he said." What a scene it would have been if he had asked Srinivasan to answer that :)

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