BCCI officials ramp up pressure on Fletcher
Duncan Fletcher is on notice, and will be assessed on his performance each series. That's the message to India's coach from the BCCI, though what is also clear is that Fletcher will have little part to play in the ODI series in England, with Ravi Shastri being given charge of all cricket-related activities.
The decision to clip Fletcher's wings, by effectively replacing his two assistant coaches with three from the BCCI's stable, and by putting Shastri above him, is believed to stem from the anger and disappointment of India's astonishing capitulation from a winning position in the Test series to eventually lose 3-1.
A senior BCCI official, who was privy to the discussions, said Shastri would be the go-to man for all "cricket-related activities" during the ODI series in England. "Fletcher will be there but for this tour Ravi will look after all cricketing aspects for this ODI series."
Several officials ESPNcricinfo spoke to were unwilling to commit to Fletcher's future but indicated he had been sidelined. More clear is the future of Trevor Penney, the fielding coach, and Joe Dawes, the bowling coach, the feeing in the BCCI being they were not doing their jobs properly.
Fletcher had been the target of severe public criticism through India's 8-0 run of defeats in England and Australia in 2011, but the BCCI stuck by him and renewed his contract for a year this April, with secretary Sanjay Patel saying the board had complete confidence in the coaching staff. Fletcher is now believed to have lost support and the BCCI seems keen on making the point that Tuesday's decision was not an abrupt one, rather the culmination of events over the past few months.
What hurt the BCCI hierarchy most was the manner in which India lost the three Tests in England this summer. It forced them to take notice and act swiftly. "The Indian team is not performing. What went wrong?" Anurag Thakur, the BCCI joint secretary, said. "You need to look at whether it was the coach and support staff, whether it was the selection of the team or there is problem in coordination. So at this stage, when the team for the ODIs has been picked, the best you can do is to have more people engaged who can work closely with the Indian cricket team.
Ranjib Biswal, the IPL chairman and a top board functionary, indicated the positive presence of Shastri would inject the dose of competitive spirit back in the team. "When the team is demoralised you need the someone to lift the morale. Ravi has the experience and he has done it earlier," Biswal said.
According to Thakur, the decision to appoint new coaching staff was taken only on Monday. "The BCCI should take some decision for the betterment of cricket. The selectors can have the autonomy to pick the player. But the only option left with the BCCI was to see how we could help the players and Indian cricket by bringing in these three people.
"What was the need of Ravi Shastri? I felt something was missing - maybe the communication gap between the coach and the players," Thakur said. "A person like Shastri can boost the morale of the team. Nothing wrong in trying in the ODI series when you are doing so badly."
The string of overseas series defeats was becoming unbearable under Fletcher's watch, one senior official said. "Some shake-up was needed. You can't just get blown away for three Tests in a row in less than 40 or 50 overs. Agreed the coaches are as good as the players, but if you are not evoking the same kind of confidence it does not help. The effort is there but if the results are not coming then people will raise questions."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo