Taking the Positives

‎’Taking the Positives’ was a phrase that became synonymous with England towards the end of Duncan Fletcher’s reign as coach (and under Peter Moores to be fair), and it would be the phrase rolled out every time England got a disappointing result. 

It would be fair to say that Fletcher hasn’t had the chance to take ‘too many positives’ out of his last 8 tests in charge of India. But at last there is a positive and it comes in the form of ‘Virat Kohli.’

Kohli’s maiden test century could have come a lot earlier than it has, but it has come at a timely moment for Fletcher with pressure on him to make wholesale changes to the team after their second whitewash.

With some of the old guard likely to be replaced, the last thing Fletcher needed was clamour for Kholi to be dropped also, or to be carrying him in the test side at a time of transition.

Obviously one innings doesn’t mean he has made it at test level, but for a while at least it should silence the doubters who have pigeon holed him as an ODI batsmen only.

So at least that is one less headache for Fletcher in the immediate aftermath of his latest thrashing

The hardest job in world cricket

I was surprised to hear today that Duncan Fletcher has been named as India coach on a 2 year contract.

With India the number 1 test team and ODI world champions, it would seem like the dream job. But I’m not so sure and think he could be on a hiding to nothing here, this job looks full of pitfalls to me, I can already hear Geoffrey Boycott sniggering at the thought of Fletcher falling on his face here.

Despite all these misgivings, ultimately this was an offer he could never have turned down. It will probably be his last high profile job offer in cricket, and by the end of it I would imagine no one will touch him with a barge poll.

In the test arena Fletcher is going to have to oversee the end of the careers of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and probably Sachin – assuming he doesn’t go on for another 20 years.

Replacing Dravid and Laxman could take up the bulk of his 2 years. Also if he handles the Sachin issue badly, then he will obviously be out on his ear. When the time comes for Sachin, he has to be allowed to go in his own way.

It will also be interesting to see how he handles the lack of Indian seam bowlers, he is famously known for not wanting to know any bowlers in English county cricket who couldn’t bowl between 85 and 90 mph. Will he have to break his principles there?

I can see this job being the ultimate test of Fletcher’s man management skills – not only with the senior players, but the press.

In England he struggled with the press and he always struck me as a man who didn’t have much in the way of man mangement skills, but in fairness to him I have listened to Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan a lot and they both speak very highly of him.

On the whole Fletcher did a good job with England, but it will be interesting to see if the Indian players buy into his ways. The BCCI know that this is going to be a transitional period for Indian cricket and there is a cynical part of me that thinks they may well have been looking for a potential fall guy.

Good luck Dunc, I think you’re going to need it.

Who’s "oversight" was it?

I’m not sure what to make of ICC’s decision to add Graeme Swann’s name to the longlist for the ICC Cricketer of the Year Award, after originally overlooking him. It is another highly embarrassing incident for ICC.

Justice has certainly been done, as Swann should have been one of the first names on the list. He is probably in the top 4 or 5 cricketers in the world over the last year, let alone the top 16.

But why he was originally left out is another question. Was it just a stupid oversight? Or is there more too it than that?

One of the five members of the selection panel is a certain Duncan Fletcher. The same man who deemed Swann not good enough for England during the majority of his tenure as national team coach.

To those of us outside the sport looking in, Fletcher seems an incredibly hard man to read. He seemed to be a stone faced, dour man devoid of any personality while he was coach of England. But during his stint on Test Match Special last winter he came across as a very articulate, decent friendly man with a dry sense of humour, he was in fact very interesting to listen too.

One thing that I think is obvious about Fletcher though, is his unbreakable, stubborn belief that he is never wrong.

Could it be that to name Swann as one of the worlds top cricketers would be an admission that he got it wrong in the past?

And how wrong Fletcher got it, is quite amazing really. I think back to the public clamour for Monty Panesar to be included in the England team, and the way Fletcher seemed totally opposed to this.

He hated certain aspects of Panesar’s game, mainly his fielding and batting. While he desperately wanted Ashley Giles back as he was the all round complete package, could field at gully, and bat at 8, as well as do his bowling duties properly.

Without Giles – and having to replace him with Monty – the whole axis of Fletcher’s team was compromised. And all the time, the perfect like-for-like replacement for Giles was plugging away in county cricket with absolutely no chance of getting a game, simply because Fletcher didn’t like his personality.

Maybe Swann wasn’t ready for test cricket back in 2006-07, who knows? Under Fletcher we certainly were never going to find out, thats for sure.

Duncan Fletcher did a brilliant job as England coach, and I’m sure I speak for all England fans when I say we owe him a massive debt of gratitude for the 2005 Ashes victory.

And in Fletcher’s defence, there was 4 other members on the selection panel, so Fletcher would probably have had to do well to persuade others not to select Swann.

But I really do hope this isn’t another episode of the bitterness that seemed to surface with the release of his book. The kind of revenge that Fletcher seemed hell bent on dishing out when he released his thoughts on anyone who dared cross him during his time in charge.

I like to try and think of Fletcher as he came across on TMS, as I mentioned earlier in the article, but it does leave me wondering.