Arthur revels in Fletcher's knowledge
South Africa's coach, Mickey Arthur, believes that Duncan Fletcher's insight into the England dressing-room could be a vital factor for the forthcoming Test and ODI series, after he linked up with the South Africa squad in Potchefstroom on Tuesday to resume his role as a batting and tactical consultant.
Fletcher coached England for seven years up until 2007, and guided the team to unprecedented success in that time, including six series wins in a row leading into the 2005 Ashes. He led England on two tours to South Africa, starting with his maiden series in charge in 1999-2000 and culminating in a memorable 2-1 triumph five years' later.
During England's warm-up match against South Africa A at Potchefstroom, however, Fletcher could be seen sitting in the stands alongside the South Africa chairman of selectors, and afterwards Arthur was delighted to speculate about the nuggets of information that will be divulged in the coming weeks.
"I think Duncan's voice in the dressing room just before a series against England is going to be brilliant," Arthur told reporters after the match. "He's with us until the second ODI and then he comes in five days before the first Test match, and he works with our Test squad until the end of the first Test."
Fletcher performed a similar role for South Africa on their historic tour of Australia in December and January last year, when they won their first series in the country since the end of Apartheid. "It's a no-brainer really," said Arthur. "When we signed Duncan last year we signed him for the Australian series, especially the one in Australia, and obviously thinking of the England series.
"He flew in today and worked with us in a training session this morning. I brought him to Potch because we wanted to discuss a couple of things. It's great having his knowledge around. I always think you need to keep refreshing, you need to keep stimulating the environment and the players. And we've done that by bringing in different voices at crucial times."
Although England's squad is significantly different from last time Fletcher was in charge, during the 2007 World Cup, many of the key personnel were among his stalwarts, not least the captain, Andrew Strauss, and Paul Collingwood, whom Fletcher first selected in the summer of 2001.
"The simple fact is he knows a few of us pretty well," Collingwood told Cricinfo. "He knows our characters pretty well, but his main asset is his technical brilliance. He knows our techniques pretty well and I'm sure he will give some tips to the South Africans. But our technique and mentality towards the game probably changes all the time, so that's a way to combat them when we come out and play our cricket in the middle."
"I don't know how he's going to feel," said Arthur, when asked if Fletcher would feel awkward about revealing inside information, "but Duncan brings a lot to us."