Can Duncan Fletcher learn the Indian way?

By Suresh Menon
History is no guide when it comes to coaching India. You can be a cricketing genius or a coach with an enviable record; you can be highly qualified or a fresher; young or old; you can be an Indian or an outsider.
But none of this matters unless your “likeability factor” is high. The players have to like you, the media have to feel involved. Officials want flexibility and regular acknowledgement that they are the bosses.
Coaching is the least of the tasks. Depending on how he approaches his job, the Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher, 62, will either have his hands full or have so little to do that it will be a breeze.
Of India’s three recent foreign coaches, John Wright has written about how he was met with a limousine at the airport when the Indian team won, and forced to take a taxi on his own when they lost. Gary Kirsten focussed on relationships, much in the manner Wright had done, while in between, Greg Chappell, a better thinker than either, began well but was quickly dragged down to the level of fighting his battles in the media and letting his strong likes and dislikes show.
Fletcher’s appointment answers, for the moment, the question that followed India’s World Cup triumph: would the victory Cup do for homegrown coaches what it did for their players and earn them recognition among the best in the business? Half the coaches at the tournament were from either Australia or the West Indies. Nine of the 14 countries had foreign coaches.
India are the world champions and the number one ranked Test team, so any new coach would be in a lose-lose situation.
If India retains the Test position, that is what they are expected to do, and if they slip, then the coach will cop part of the blame. India is number two in the one-day rankings, and if they climb to the top that is also something they are expected to do as world champions.
Fletcher will have to ensure that the team keeps running smoothly merely to stay in the same place, but he will also have important input into the development of the next generation as the team approaches a transition phase.
Sachin Tendulkar cannot go on forever, and India will also have to prepare for the conclusion of a few more careers, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan, all of whom played key roles in getting them to their current position of strength.
Fletcher’s record as England’s coach was excellent for the first six of his eight years in charge, yet one cannot shake away the feeling that the Indian board lost a chance to blood a homegrown candidate who could hold his own in the company of Fletcher, Andy Flower, Tom Moody and other names discussed whenever an international coaching vacancy arises.
This might have been a good time to add an Indian to the list of the usual suspects. He need not have been an international star but must have had the confidence of the players and the ability to operate both the iron hand and the velvet glove.
Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad were the obvious candidates, having worked with the team successfully as fielding and bowling coach on the 2007 tour to England.
But if the board wanted someone who would not have to waste time getting to know the players or the peculiar Indian way of doing things, the great Anil Kumble was also available.
Kirsten has already laid down the formula for success. He was low-key, accessible and the players saw him as a friend. The Indian team loathes the attention-grabbing, public blood-letting style that Chappell adopted.
Indian umpires have not made an impact internationally in recent years, and neither have Indian coaches. Development of the game is a multi-layered process, and the cricket board must take the responsibility to place hard-working and result-oriented officials on and off the field on a platform where they can compete with the best in the world.
Still, foreign coaches have worked well in India. Fletcher came across as a no-nonsense professional when he was in charge of England. But he will have to temper his professionalism with the occasional compromise. That is the Indian way.
A telephone call to Kirsten, whom he has coached in the past, would be a good idea. (BBC)


Fletcher is the ideal man for India

By Nasser Hussain
Duncan Fletcher is the ideal man to lead India at this time. I know I am biased after the close relationship we had with England but Duncan is the best coach I have ever worked with.
The man is a genius on technique, both of his own and opposing players, and manages to work out opponents and conditions better than anyone else I have known in the game.
Top players might know they are doing something wrong but Duncan will know instantly exactly what, whether it is stance, grip or trigger movements, and immediately come up with a solution.
He also gave us purpose, he was always planning ahead and he was a great man-manager. The real Duncan Fletcher was very different to the often guarded and suspicious man who was seen in public.
I am not surprised India has looked to Duncan because two of the people he is closest to in the game are Gary Kirsten, the outgoing coach, and Eric Simons, India’s bowling coach.
Duncan was always in contact with Kirsten during his time with England, swapping information on various aspects of the game, while he and Simons were inseparable when I last saw them in Cape Town during England’s most recent tour of South Africa.
Both men would have strongly recommended Duncan to India. Then again, I am surprised in some ways that he has taken on this huge job because over the last few years his wife, Marina, has had health problems.
I can only hope and assume those problems must be easing for Duncan to take this on now. He is shrewd and clever enough to know the best way to treat the God-like figures in the Indian team and I think it will suit him that the coach of India has always been a man to stay very much in the background.
The first thing Duncan said to me when we came together as England captain and coach was that the captain was the man in charge, the spokesman, and that the coach should be the man dealing with the off-field issues.
The coach was a consultant, if you like. That attitude will serve him well now because, if a foreign coach of India tries to take on their media or the superstar players, there is only one winner - and it is not the coach, as Greg Chappell found out when he took on the ‘Prince of Calcutta’, Sourav Ganguly.
Of course there are a couple of issues Duncan will have to address. His age is a factor but again I can’t see why a man of 62 should not do an exceptional job for India.
And also he was the man who first introduced the culture of improved fitness into the England dressing room and I am not sure how that will go down in India.
Their players tend to like to do a bit of practice and then head off to film yet another TV commercial rather than go to the gym. My advice is not to switch on his TV in India, nor read any Indian paper.
There is nothing Duncan would like more than to beat England this summer. A cracking series just got even more interesting. – [Daily Mail]


Barney Gibson (15) first-class cricket’s youngest ever player

By Richard Gibson
Schoolboy Barney Gibson made sporting history on Wednesday when he became the youngest player in English first-class cricket.
At 15 years, 27 days, wicketkeeper Gibson broke a 144-year-old record when he strode on to the field for Yorkshire against Durham University at the Racecourse Ground in Durham.
Charles Young was 104 days Gibson’s elder when he played for Hampshire against Kent at Gravesend in 1867. Gibson received special dispensation from Crawshaw School, Pudsey, where he is a fourth-year pupil, to play.
He began by keeping to England World Cup bowler Ajmal Shahzad and made two catches in the University’s 196 all out, the first a diving effort to his right off Oliver Hannon-Dalby to dismiss opening batsman Luc Durandt in the 10th over.

His second, late in the innings, provided left-arm spinner David Wainwright with a sixth wicket. Gibson pledged his allegiance to cricket at the age of 12 despite showing promise in Leeds United’s schoolboy football teams.
Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon, a former team-mate of Paul Jarvis, the club’s previous youngest player at 16 years and 75 days, said: ‘When you look at the first team at Yorkshire there are a lot of lads who have come through our academy. But Barney is obviously very advanced for his years, and it’s amazing that he is playing so young.’

Gibson emerged at reigning Bradford League champions Pudsey Congs, the club of Herbert Sutcliffe and, more recently, Matthew Hoggard.
The club’s cricket chairman Ralph Middlebrook, father of Northamptonshire off-spinner James, said: ‘It’s a wonderful achievement, we are very proud of him and the fact he has come through the ranks at our club.’
Young used to be the youngest...
Charles Young, England’s previous youngest first-class cricketer, was aged 15 years and 131 days when he made his debut.
Young played for Hampshire against Kent at the Bat and Ball Ground in Gravesend on June 13, 1867.
Born in the Indian town of Dharwar on February 2, 1852, Young scored 20 not out from No 9, then made eight as a makeshift opener in the second innings.
He also took one for 12 with his left-arm medium pace but Kent won by nine wickets. Young finished his first-class career with 717 runs at an average of 11 and 149 wickets at 21.
A clerk by trade in Southampton, he went on to play professional cricket in Scotland. The date of his death is unknown. – [Daily Mail]


London 2012 Olympic ticket demand passes 20m

By David Bond
London 2012 organisers have revealed that they received applications for more than 20 million tickets from 1.8 million people for the Olympic Games.
That figure is more than three times the 6.6 million tickets available to UK sports fans for the event.
Organisers have also said more than 50% of the 645 sessions will go to a random ballot and that 95% of the applications are from the UK.

“We’re thrilled with the response,” said London 2012 chief Lord Coe.
Track cycling, rhythmic gymnastics, triathlon, modern pentathlon, equestrian (cross country) and both the opening and closing ceremonies were the first events to sell out.
Tickets for those sports will go to ballot, as will the majority of the sessions in swimming and tennis.
More than 2.5 million people had registered their interest in tickets before they went on sale for a six-week period starting on 15 March.

In what is the biggest ticketing exercise ever undertaken in the UK, the London Organising Committee (Locog) will now check and de-duplicate applications.
It will then run ballots across sessions which are oversubscribed and process applications.
Money will be taken from accounts from 10 May and customers will receive confirmation of which events they will receive tickets for in June.

Those who were not successful in their initial application will be given further opportunities to apply for remaining tickets in June and July as part of this process.
“Certain events have seen massive demand - for example the opening ceremony, which is more than 10 times oversubscribed - so there will understandably be disappointment and we will find a way to go back to those people with other tickets,” added Lord Coe.
“What is most encouraging is that the majority of applications are for multiple tickets and for several sports, which shows that friends and family are planning to go to the Games together.” – [BBC]


Wimbledon winners to pocket £1.1m each

By Mike Dickson
The rich will get richer at Wimbledon this year with the likes of Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams getting an eye watering £1.1 million in prize money if they were to defend their singles titles in early July.
Any player getting to the third round or better will enjoy an austerity-beating 10 per cent pay hike at what will be the 125th anniversary edition of The Championships taking place from June 20.
First round losers, however, will get ‘only’ a 2.2 per cent increase to £11,500, and it was that group, in the shape of the anticipated batch of early British defeats, that drew most of the attention at the official preview of this summer’s event.

In his first public pronouncements as the new Chairman of the All England Club, Philip Brook was repeatedly challenged on the Club’s laissez-fair stance on the chronic state of British tennis.
Every year the profits from Wimbledon fund the domestic game to the tune of around £25-30 million with little apparent return, but Brook insisted he was happy, like his predecessors, to leave the growing of the sport to the hapless Lawn Tennis Association.
This despite the worst performance from home players in history last year when everyone bar Andy Murray was wiped out in the first round.

‘It is not our job to dictate or influence the way the money is spent,’ said Brook. ‘Our job is to focus on making sure that we continue to put on the best tournament in the world.’
There is little doubt that the All England Club is achieving that ambition but when there is a major summer football event every other year competing for attention it becomes more and more obvious that the tournament’s potential is being restricted by recurring British failure.
One of the sub-texts in all this is Wimbledon’s desperation not to tarnish its brand by getting too involved in trying to solve the problems of the domestic game beyond its free coaching programme for thousands of local schoolchildren.

Murray has withdrawn from this week’s Barcelona Open after being advised to rest his troublesome elbow for four or five days, meaning he is expected to be fit for the Madrid Masters at the start of next month.
The 23-year-old Scot is unlikely to find himself playing in the latest new court being unveiled at Wimbledon this year, the new 2,000-seater Number Three, on the site of the old ‘Graveyard of the Seeds’ Number Two. Like much of the phenomenal development of recent years, bar the Centre Court, it is gleamingly functional but bereft of much style or character.

In an unusual venture into politics the All England Club revealed that, along with golf and Formula One bodies, it is lobbying the government about the tax treatment of individual sportsmen when they compete in this country.
At present someone like Rafael Nadal, who spends at least a month in the UK every year, has to pay tax on a month’s worth of his annual endorsement earnings, wherever they are from, and the fear is this will deter top athletes of all sports from competing in Britain. – [Daily Mail]


Woods’ niece Cheyenne wins her first golfing title at 20

By Maysa Rawi
Tiger Woods might still be struggling to recapture his very best form since his life was rocked by scandal last year, but one member of the family is striking the ball just right.
Tiger’s niece Cheyenne last weekend claimed her first major golfing gong, the ACC women’s golf title at Sedgefield, North Carolina.
Shooting a three-under-par final round of 68, there is no doubt Cheyenne is following in her uncle’s footsteps.
In a post-game interview claimed she took Tiger’s advice to ‘to kick butt, to dominate like I try to do and thankfully did this weekend.’
Far from being threatened by his younger relative’s success, Tiger happily Tweeted: ‘My niece, Cheyenne, just won the ACC golf title by 7 shots!
‘That’s awesome, I’m so proud of her.’
The twenty-year-old, born in Arizona, is the daughter of Earl Dennison Woods Jr, Tiger’s older half-brother, and was coached by her grandfather.
But despite her famous heritage, she insists she doesn’t want to rely on Tiger ‘s reputation.
She said: ‘Coming into Wake Forest (in 2008) . . . there was a lot of spotlight on me as Tiger Woods’ niece.
‘Now that I’m into college a little more, I’ve shown that I am able to play - not being known as Tiger’s niece, but I have my own game, too.
‘I feel people are starting to recognize that, and this past weekend, I think, helped a lot.’ – [Daily Mail]