Duncan Fletcher, the former England coach and Zimbabwe captain, has been appointed India's coach, ending weeks of speculation over who would succeed Gary Kirsten. The BCCI announced the decision to give Fletcher a two-year contract after a Working Committee meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday. Eric Simons' tenure as the team's bowling coach was also extended.
Fletcher, though, is unlikely to join India for the tour of the West Indies in June. "The contract with Fletcher is for two years," N Srinivasan, the BCCI secretary, said. "He may not join the team in the West Indies as he has some prior commitments.
"After a lot of thought and consultation, the BCCI president and BCCI secretary placed Fletcher's name before the Working Committee, which the Committee ratified," Rajiv Shukla, the BCCI vice-president, said, adding that the terms and conditions of Fletcher's appointment would be the same as that of Kirsten's.
It has been reliably learnt that Kirsten played an important hand in recommending Fletcher for the job. Also the board consulted some of the senior India players, including captain MS Dhoni, before finalising Fletcher's appointment.
Fletcher, 62, was in charge of England when they beat Australia in 2005 to regain the Ashes for the first time since 1986-87, and was credited with turning around England's fortunes in Tests during his eight-year stint, first with Nasser Hussain and then with Michael Vaughan.
He was England's first foreign coach and took over in 1999. He oversaw Test series wins in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, though Australia thrashed England 4-1 in the Ashes in 2001. Later, with Vaughan, he helped England win their first Test series in South Africa post apartheid and the pair played a critical role in moulding a team that was to win the Ashes in 2005.
England won 42 and lost 30 Tests with Fletcher in charge but their ODI form wasn't as good - winning 75 and losing 82. His tenure reached its lowest ebb during a 0-5 Ashes drubbing in Australia in 2006-07 and a disappointing World Cup campaign, after which he stepped down. One of Fletcher's problems during his England reign was a tetchy relationship with the media, something which Vaughan felt could be a hindrance in his India job as well. "Duncan will work well with all the talent," Vaughan said on Twitter. "His biggest challenge will come from the media ... he has never really understood how it works."
After giving up the England job, Fletcher took up several short-term international assignments. He joined South Africa as a batting consultant in 2008, a role he returned to for the 2011 World Cup, and was in a similar position with New Zealand on their tour of India last year.
England were officially ranked the worst Test team when he took over as their coach, and he will now take charge of a team that won the World Cup earlier this month and is currently top of the Test rankings.
One of the first coaching jobs Fletcher took up was at the University of Cape Town, where Kirsten was part of the team. The pair once again were together at Western Province.
In 1994, Fletcher applied for his first high-profile job - the head coach of South Africa. He was one of the three candidates interviewed. His competitors were Eddie Barlow and Bob Woolmer. Eventually the three-man panel comprising Peter Pollock, Raymond White and Ali Bacher agreed on Woolmer, who stayed in the job till 1999. Fletcher, meanwhile, operated as South Africa A coach for a while before taking up the England assignment.
According to Bacher, Fletcher's style of coaching draws a lot from his playing days."Hardworking, disciplined, very professionally driven and played to his utmost potential even if he was not blessed with extraordinary talent," Bacher said. "He brings the same characteristics to his coaching."
Fletcher has also been known to work on an individual basis with Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis.