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Duncan Fletcher retained as India's coach - Is BCCI's planning for future correct?

CRICKET-IND-TRAINING

Is retaining Duncan Fletcher for another year going to help India in its World Cup title defence?

A good performance by a player gives him a reprieve and helps him retain his place in the side for a few matches to come. A good series for a player makes people forget his past failures and start treating him like a star on the rise. However, in a one-of-its-kind decision, BCCI has extended the current Indian cricket team’s coach Duncan Fletcher’s contract by one more year. This decision comes in wake of some splendid performance by the Indian team in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

This decision raises three questions:

First, are the two Test wins against Australia sufficient to compensate for the losses against England and Australia?

Second, if Fletcher’s contract is not renewed next year, will India will be in a position to experiment with a new coach with less than a year to go for the 2015 World Cup?

Third, if Fletcher holds the helm till the World Cup, what chances do India have of defending its title?

My take on the first question is – ‘No’. Indian team needs a new perspective, a new outlook, a new mission-vision statement. More importantly, Team India needs a new visionary who makes the team tread a new path leading to success. Fletcher has given a satisfactory performance as the coach. The overseas debacle was a collective failure on the part of the Indian team. However, it was expected from Fletcher to take corrective measures and make his past coaching experience count. Team India fared well on home soil. Subcontinental conditions, especially catered to suit the home team made visiting teams toil hard and return defeated. These mini victories acted as hides for the chinks in the Indian armour. These chinks were later exposed by the visiting English team and Fletcher’s stay looked short-lived. Overall, the team’s performance in the longest format of the game hasn’t been commendable with India regularly failing to defeat better ranked teams.

Furthermore, the defending champions should not bargain on a new coach who will have little time with the team before the World Cup. If Fletcher leaves the team before IPL 2014, with the T20 World Cup coming up, the new coach will get few games to find a settled combination, to work on the weaknesses of players and to capitalize on their strengths. This means that either Fletcher sticks around till the next world cup or BCCI plays a gamble with a new coach. Finding a new coach will not be a prudent decision. A foreign coach will take some time to settle, understand the nature of Indian cricket, weigh the burden of a billion expectations and empathize with the volatile nature of stardom a player enjoys. If Team India falters in ODIs under a new coach, not only will it be the worst lead up to a World Cup title defence but also will negatively affect the confidence of the players and inhibit the building up of the requisite momentum before the World Cup.

The performance of the Men in Blue in the shorter format of the game is still appreciable. Next World Cup will be played in Australia. Last time our warriors fought on the Kangaroo island, they won 3 out of 8 games with one match ending in a tie. One match of that series has left an indelible mark on our memory – when India chased the Sri Lankan total of 320 in under 37 overs to stay in contention for the finals. The Indian ODI squad bears a stronger look. With or without Fletcher, the team should perform well. However, Fletcher’s presence will give the team a feeling of continuity. Also, with two years to go before the 2015 World Cup, Fletcher will have ample time to understand the needs of the team and build a stronger unit.

In a nutshell, it’s a clash between India’s deplorable Test performance and appreciable ODI achievements. With Fletcher staying with the team for one more year, it will be prudent on BCCI’s part to now retain him as the coach at least till the next World Cup. With Indian team finding a fitting combination in Test matches and quality players to replace the lost stalwarts, the overall performance under Fletcher should improve.

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