India winning from tight situations pleases Fletcher
Duncan Fletcher, the India coach, said it was difficult for his side to follow-up a successful World Cup year with the same "intensity", citing India's lack of home fixtures in the past year as the reason for their poor form, after the 4-1 ODI series win over Sri Lanka on Saturday. Fletcher has had a tough first year since taking over from Gary Kirsten after the 2011 World Cup, with the team losing eight consecutive away Tests, four each to England and Australia.
He said England faced similar problems of relaxing after a successful phase and that the win would provide India with confidence ahead of home matches against New Zealand and England.
"It is always difficult after you have had a very successful year like that when you have won the World Cup," Fletcher said. "I have been involved with another side [England] that did the same thing and afterwards, after having had a successful series, to maintain that sort of intensity is quite difficult because sides tend to sit back a bit.
"One must also consider that since then we have only had one series in India. We haven't played [much] in India which is where they are very strong like any side is. I have seen other sides go away from home lately over the last two-three years and they have all struggled. We have only had that one series [against West Indies] where we played some very good cricket in India.
"Beating Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka is very difficult. Not many sides have been able to do it. Hopefully this gives the side a lot of confidence. When we get back to India we have some difficult tours coming up and hopefully we can play the good cricket that we know we can in India."
India closed out games from tight situations in the series, and Fletcher said that was something they had been working on. For instance, today Sri Lanka needed 45 from 48 deliveries but Irfan Pathan struck thrice in two overs to seal the game for India.
"There have been problems on previous away tours [when] we have had the opposition in trouble and have not been able to make sure that we maintain the pressure on them and take advantage of that. It is something we spoke quite a lot about - making sure when we get ourselves into a situation that we maintain our concentration levels. I think it is mainly a concentration situation where they think the game is really in the bag, and with cricket today with batting orders going down all the way down to No 9 and 10, there is no way you can take your foot off the pedal until you have bowled a side out. There have been occasions here where we have had a bit of scare, where the opposition have come back at us. But it is nice to see that they [Indian team] have held their nerve and maintained the discipline that we require of them.
"I think it was a very good win from the point of view that we had had a long break [and there was] some sort of nervousness to see how they would start the season. Obviously [we were] going to arrive here a little bit unfit. We have worked on the fitness regime and the results have proven here. They have played some good cricket."
Fletcher said Rohit Sharma - who made 13 runs in five games in the series - was in poor form but would come out of it. "People must consider that he has played well for us in the one-day side before. You have a look at him when he has batted under pressure for us while batting second. So it is not a pressure situation. It is like most cricketers go through a dip in form and suddenly it just hangs in there and they are put under pressure. I am sure Rohit will come out of that situation."
Virat Kohli continued his outstanding run since the World Cup with two more centuries in the series. Fletcher said what was good was that Kohli had capitalised on his good form.
"Normally players can go through short spells where they do well and then lose that form but he has maintained it which is very good."
Irfan Pathan took eight wickets, including a five-for today, in the series at an economy-rate of 5.27 and also performed twice in crucial situations with the bat. "I think he is a very useful cricketer. He puts in an all-round contribution. He is very professional on and off the field. He works hard at his game and he has got the results that he deserves. I think he has got the potential. We just have got to see him progress from here and see how he bowls in India and bats in India. He has done a good job for us at the moment."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo