MS Dhoni has said Duncan Fletcher will be India's coach at the World Cup, and that he is still "the boss". Speaking ahead of the first ODI against England, he did not sound too thrilled about the decision to send fielding and bowling coaches, Trevor Penney and Joe Dawes, on "leave", although he did welcome Ravi Shastri's presence as team director.
When asked if he felt bad for Fletcher, and if he sees him going to Australia, Dhoni's response was emphatic. "Definitely he will lead us into the World Cup," Dhoni said. "Also he is still the boss. We have Ravi [Shastri] who will look into everything, but Duncan Fletcher is the boss. It's not as if his powers or his position have been curtailed. I don't know what you feel from outside, but still operations remain the same. We have a few other support staff who come into the dressing room, but overall the operation remains the same."
What about the decision to bring in new support staff and the timing of it, then? "Some things just [happen] this way," Dhoni said. "It's a bit tough on Trevor [fielding coach] and Joey [bowling coach], I know. Especially when fielders drop catches and the fielding coach has to miss the series.
"But let's hope for the best. We are welcoming the new guys because that is very important. They will be part of the dressing-room family as of now. We will have to give them some time to adjust to how we operate, and see what kind of input they bring to the table."
On Diwali day in 2009, no such concern was shown for Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh, the bowling and fielding coaches who were sacked unceremoniously.
Dhoni did suggest the new team director, Shastri, will be good for the side. "He is here to oversee the operations," Dhoni said. "From the outside, what he feels and everything. It's good to have him. The reason being he is a very proud India cricketer, and at the same time very positive. He believes a lot in fighting and having the right instincts, going over and giving his 100%. It is obviously good to have him. He also speaks the same language, and can interact a lot with the players. Same is the case with other people, so it is good to have them."
Shivlal Yadav, the interim BCCI president for non-IPL affairs, said that Fletcher's contract ran till the World Cup but a decision would be taken before the home series against West Indies in October. "I haven't heard exactly what Dhoni stated, but he must have meant that Fletcher's contract is till the February-March World Cup. That's the factual position," he told the Kolkata Telegraph. "The Board, however, hasn't taken any decision on the head coach and other members of the support staff beyond the ongoing tour of England. This, too, is the factual position. There's time before the next series, against West Indies, and the Board's AGM will take a call."
Dhoni refused to say if he had been consulted before the changes were made. It was a bizarre press conference - even by his standards - before the start of the series. He began all right, but then stopped taking questions about the support staff saying he wanted to talk about the next match, and then refused to talk about Rohit Sharma's role as an opener in ODIs.
The ball has lost colour, kits have assumed it; back lifts have gone higher, bat swings faster; India are looking more at home trying to hit everything out of the ground at the nets, but massive uncertainty remains around them what with radical changes brought about to the caching staff. Imposed, more like, it sounded from Dhoni's press conference.
Shastri was pretty active on his first day on the field as a team director. He had had one formal team meeting already, and a few one-on-one chats. On Sunday, he had a long and animated chat with Dhoni and Flecther next to the pitch. Both Shastri and Fletcher kept twirling their right wrist, as a legspinner would. It seemed to be a debate around Karn Sharma. Dhoni, as usual, gave away little through facial reaction or hand gestures.
Later, during the nets session, Shastri had a point to make to Shikhar Dhawan, who has had an ordinary Test series but will be back as ODI opener. Fletcher immediately joined in, and the two went away to have another long discussion. After Dhawan was done with his stint, Shastri had another chat with him. He did the same with Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina. Bharat Arun slipped into Dawes' role, R Sridhar into Penney's, and Sanjay Bangar mostly gave throwdowns to the batsmen.
August 26, 2014 08:15 GMT: This piece has been updated with Shivlal Yadav's quotes
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo