They say a cat has nine lives. Despite the existence of numerous speculations on reincarnation and rebirth, a man cannot have more; that is, if you are not Duncan Fletcher – the tutor who seems to have consumed the nectar of immortality. The Indian cricket team or rather its fortunes have taken a turn from bad to worse and worse to hopelessly pathetic. The misery and misfortune suffered in foreign shores for three horrendous years and four baffling tours are enough to rip open a coach’s heart, clatter his ego and smash – not dent – his self-confidence. But Fletcher is in a trance, his stance depicting one of total obliviousness to the happenings around.
Coach Duncan, though sporting an unflappable and unassuming demeanour, isn’t exactly oozing confidence at the moment, but rather making a mockery of himself by donning the cloak of unscrupulousness. Fletcher stood his ground and stuck to his job despite suffering humiliating whitewashes against mighty oppositions and embarrassing defeats from lowly ranked counterparts. Where others in his shoes would have voluntarily disappeared into ignominy before getting their heads chopped, Duncan neither called it quits nor received the sack. He was gifted gilded flowers, not the guillotine.
The BCCI has been an embodiment of consistency. So stubborn and consistently faulty with its decisions, putting to shame even the players, for whom consistency seems a word too hard to spell of late. One is at his wits end trying to figure out why BCCI seems so ‘immune’ to change. And it is the employer’s reluctance to swim against the tide that has affected its highest paid employee, too. Indian cricket is blessed with a skipper who has forgotten the art of innovation, who is becoming dangerously risk averse by the day and shoves suggestions to change his baffling tactics, down the drain. The ‘junta’ is screaming, the fans are yelling and the game’s connoisseurs are pleading. They need aggression. They need flair. They need captains who can conjure up victories from the jaws of defeat.
Most importantly they need a coach who can knock some sense into the skipper’s skull when he isn’t ticking the right boxes. What isn’t wanted by any stretch of imagination is a tutor who sings a lullaby to the skipper who is already in a deep slumber. Duncan Fletcher needs to, or more appropriately, should have asked Dhoni to take the bull by the horns when the ship was half sunk during the shambolic overseas campaigns. Fletcher was the guide who was expected to imbue imagination and aggression into a jaded outfit and a drained skipper rather than joining hands to play it safe, dull draws and astounding defeats from winning positions being the unfortunate result. The BCCI doesn’t want what the game in the country needs.
What is bewildering beyond belief is the fact that the BCCI persisted with Fletcher after the Zimbabwean had the most abysmal couple of years in 2011-2013. A team in transition, a truckload of legends calling it a day and a highly successful predecessor made it unfair to compare or judge Fletcher at that juncture. Fair enough. But it has been too long a run – three springs to be precise – too unsuccessful a tourney for Duncan Fletcher with Indian cricket. India has seen enough of Duncan. His coaching pedagogy is no longer a one Indians would buy at face value. He doesn’t possesses the innovative man management skills of a Kirsten, the demeanour of a strict taskmaster like an Andy Flower or even the plain, unabridged aggression of Darren ‘Boof’ Lehmann.
Whatever the reason is, just like runs over a period of time are an accepted testimony of a batsman’s quality and wickets the yardstick to a bowler’s greatness, it is the results that speak for a coach’s contribution to value creation.
Duncan Fletcher’s contract is all set to expire on the first of April. In one way or the other his comeuppance for enduring erratic performances for an eternity was nigh. That he has been brought to mortal grounds is all but evident by the fact that the BCCI has begun its search for a new man at the helm of things. Now, here is another example of BCCI’s recalcitrance, the obstinacy to embrace a change. The board’s obsession with foreign coaches is a fact that is as big a secret as a marketplace gossip.
The question is – is the trade-off BCCI is doing by roping in foreign tutors over local gurus worthwhile? We pay imported tutors double the money. Indian cricket’s governing body is richer than probably the entire cricketing world put together, so bucks aren’t the brooding issue. But bucks spent should be an investment, not an expense. For the record, India won its lone ICC silverware in T20 when Lalchand Rajput and Venkatesh Prasad were the men in charge. Same goes for the historic triumph at Trent Bridge in 2007.
The barrier begins from the medium of communication and the difference in culture compounds the lack of a proper conduit for free exchange of thoughts and ideas. Take the case of an Indian heavy weight like a Sourav Ganguly for example. Men like a Ganguly or a Dravid who know the Indian dressing room culture inside out seamlessly fit into the scheme of things right from the first day on the job, know where to draw the line and when to take it easy. It is in no way brushing aside the value that an internationally acclaimed personality like Kirsten or Flower brings to the table, but when Indian legends are taking it easy on the couch, it only makes sense to leverage their expertise to the fullest.
Indian cricket is at the crossroads. The road towards lost glory is certainly the one that hasn’t had the maximum of footfalls. At least it is an alien territory for Indian cricket or rather its bosses. Status quo, if maintained is akin to embarking on a voyage in the quest of deeper pitfalls. Indian cricket needs a change at the helm, which most of the bosses for vested interests find difficult to digest. Variety is the spice of life, the ultimate verity that should drive our decisions by every move or word. At least for the time being.