Duncan Fletcher came into the Indian team with a huge reputation as the former England coach. However, his assessment of the conditions as a matter of excuse to explain India’s predicament in the Test series is baffling to say the least.
Fletcher was trying to explain in the course of the third Test at Edgbaston, Birmingham why India continued to struggled in similar fashion with the bat. While their bowling resources were arguably depleted, their batting should have helped provide a better rearguard action particularly since the pitch held fewer demons and England showed that batting indeed was possible. However, none was forthcoming in what has been a shattering tour for India as they are set to lose their no.1 Test rank.
England meanwhile have been on top of their game. Their batting order has proved rock solid and their lower order has provided resistance that has certainly titled the series in their favour. The England bowling has been incisive, precise and deadly for the Indian batsmen who have looked ill prepared to take on an attack of such potent in conditions far different from India. That England have shown great perseverance in all departments has only hurt India immensely and exposed badly how unprepared India had come into the series that would be the ultimate battle between Test rank topping teams.
However, Fletcher made a remark that has taken people off guard. For one, it is not expected of a former England coach to be attributed conditions as a reason or excuse to explain away India’s failures. Secondly when Fletcher describes the seaming and swinging conditions as the reason for the downfall, it raises eyebrows because what the coach is doing is essentially reiterating what all teams from the sub continent know or ought to know about English conditions. Arguably these conditions are as different as they come from the veritable dust bowls of the Indian sub continent but to even field this as a excuse is indeed a sorry state of affairs, particularly when it is used in connection with the team who holds the no.1 Test team rank, perhaps for only a few hours now.
It was always a given that since India reached the position of being on the pedestal, England were catching up fast, particularly since their back to back Ashes victories that have raised their profile tremendously as a crack outfit. England were always going to be tough at home, and that they have been using Sri Lanka as a workout prior to this series is only further testament of the seriousness of the contest against India.
The Indian cricket team knows that their record overseas deserves an improvement. India’s record over the last decade in England has generally been good, even winning the last series. Given that the team still boasts of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman should have given the team enough insight of what to expect in English conditions. For the coach to then field the excuse instead of genuinely accepting the fact that India were not ready and had badly under performed seemed rather strange on his part, particularly since Fletcher is cut out to be a no-nonsense coach, even regimental at times. For him to even offer this excuse on behalf of the Indian team is not only in poor taste but also, perhaps reflective that the coach is yet to assert himself on the team.