by Kanishkaa Balachandran
Geraint Jones, the England wicketkeeper during the 2005 Ashes series, is surprised that Duncan Fletcher has taken on the Indian coaching job. He says Fletcher’s biggest challenges will be dealing with the politics of Indian cricket and handling the media. Sachin Tendulkar is key to succeeding.
Fletcher, who coached England between 1999 and 2007, recently became India coach, replacing Gary Kirsten after India’s victorious World Cup.
Jones played all his 34 Tests during Fletcher’s stint and says the coach brought in a lot of positive changes to England. He admits he didn’t expect the appointment after the highs and lows with England but was confident Fletcher can adapt to a different cricketing environment in the subcontinent.
“He will really enjoy working with the talent that India has to offer. It’s an interesting dynamic though as Indian players are different to English players. They trust that talent more in India. It will be interesting to see if Fletcher comes to terms with the free spirit of Indian cricket.”
Fletcher is taking charge of the world champions as well as the No.1 Test side, in contrast to the scenario in 1999 when England were at the bottom of the Test rankings and had been knocked out of a home World Cup in the first round.
Managing the team’s success will be Fletcher’s main task and Jones felt the coach will do well to take help from the senior players in the side.
“The key is to keep the drive in Indian cricket and keep them at No.1,” Jones says. “When you have the mega millions of IPL money, what more do some of the players have to achieve? Fletcher will have to use Sachin Tendulkar as an ally as he has a huge amount of respect in the team.
“The bowling still leans heavily on Zaheer Khan. Fletcher will have to find the next generation of bowlers.”
Fletcher had a complicated relationship with the media when he was England coach. Jones believes he never really understood how the press works and this is a concern.
“He likes to sit back and steer the ship from behind closed doors but you can’t really do that in India. He should now have learned from the way things happened towards the end of his England career. People have got a bad perception of Fletcher’s personality.
“I’ve seen the other side of him, he likes to laugh and joke. He has a very dry sense of humour. He has done a bit of media work so has been on that side. He should let flow, be natural, not be too wary of the media and not think they’re always out there to get him. He should work with them rather than battle them.”
Jones praises Fletcher for his analytical skills and identifying weaknesses the players themselves didn’t know existed.
“He spent a lot time watching aspects in other sports and bringing it in to cricket. He was always looking one step ahead, he could quickly work out where to bowl out the opposition and that was a big factor in us winning the 2005 Ashes.”
He says Fletcher preferred letting the other backroom staff deal with other player issues such as the stress of touring. Fletcher liked sticking to the cricketing aspects.
Fletcher’s first assignment is against his former team, England, this summer.