India’s team director Ravi Shastri has insisted Duncan Fletcher will not be sidelined for the ODIs with England, despite their disastrous collapse in the Test series.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has placed Shastri in charge of team management, a move which has been seen by many as a precursor to Fletcher’s removal.
Two members of Fletcher’s backroom staff, bowling coach Joe Dawes and fielding coach Trevor Penney, have also been sent ‘on a break’. Both had been with Fletcher since he was appointed after India’s victory in the 2011 ICC World Cup.
However, Shastri told Sports NDTV that Fletcher “stays as coach” and “won’t be side lined”.
Shastri has only been given the role on a short-term basis as Team India seek to rectify the mistakes of their calamitous tour of England. The Three Lions secured a remarkable turnaround since the Test at Lord’s, coming from 1-0 down to win the series 3-1.
Sanjay Bangar and Bharat Arun will assist him in his duties, Shastri explaining that he had deliberately opted for coaches who had worked in domestic cricket in India. Bangar coached Kings XI Punjab in IPL 7, though Arun is less well known, especially having only played two Tests for India.
Same again for Dhoni
In spite of the changes to the coaching staff, on the field, India are likely to remain relatively unchanged. Seemingly taking turns with Alistair Cook as the beleaguered captain of the series, MS Dhoni has had to be given a vote of confidence by the BCCI, following relentless media pressure.
If Shastri has been tasked with boosting the decimated morale of the Indian camp, that could be bad news for England heading into the first ODI in Bristol on August 25. Peter Moores’ side have undoubtedly been able to take advantage of an Indian side at a low ebb, particularly as they look to rebuild confidence following a nightmare year.
Shastri highlights India’s lack of fitness and experience as the key problems that must be addressed over the course of the series, but former opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar is sceptical about whether the appointment will bring quick results.
Gavaskar added: “wrong coaching with this Indian team has hurt the players”, referring not to Shastri, but to his predecessors.
With the causes of their latest defeat going back at least two years, it will be difficult for India to salvage this tour.
Should there be an improvement, however, it could prove a death knell for Fletcher and his band of outclassed, outdated coaches.