The West Indies Cricket Board still can’t fathom just when they fell so low down the priorities ladder that the likes of Sachin Tendulkar decided to give a tour of the Caribbean a complete miss. But for India’s new coach Duncan Fletcher the absence of the seniors from the T20 and ODIs is a perfect opportunity to prove himself.
Look at it this way: If India loses no one is going to blame the coach. With the kind of inexperienced line-up that Suresh Raina is leading to the West Indies, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Darren Sammy-led squad win a few games or even the series.
But if Fletcher can help India to victory, not only will he earn the trust of the seniors and the juniors but he will also prove his coaching credentials. For a coach, it doesn’t get any better.
It’s the kind of situation that allows Fletcher to set the ground rules and then see everyone fall into place. Harbhajan Singh is the only true senior in a squad that is characterised by its relative youth. And after being snubbed by board secretary the first time round, the Zimbabwean is already learning how to say the right things.
“I have come in as a new coach and I want to work with youngsters. There’s a very good chance to win and playing this series with youngsters will show the depth of India’s bench. It can take India forward over the next 4-5 years,” said Fletcher in Mumbai.
The trouble with an opponent like the West Indies is their inconsistency. Even though they have really struggled in Tests, they still have enough talent to put pressure on the opposition in the shorter formats of the game. So if any complacency creeps in, then the ‘World Champions’ may pay a heavy price.
“Every home side is tough. Even the West Indies,” said Fletcher. “We have to go there and treat them like a proper team. We can’t get complacent. They proved it in IPL. We have to play very good cricket to beat them.”
“I was well aware of that (this is a world champion side and already settled but the England side I coached had to be resurrected). This is a WC winning side. There is so much talent in India – it’s amazing. The youngsters are lucky to have such amazing senior players around. Looking at the talent there is in India, I won’t be surprised if they can maintain the no 1 position.”
For Raina, though, it’s a very different challenge. Virat Kohli has established himself as a youngster with captaincy credentials. He was under-19 captain, captained Bangalore Royal Challengers in the IPL and his consistency on the international scene has been amazing.
If Raina, who was even dropped out of the playing XI during the World Cup, wants to maintain his place as a front-runner in the captaincy stakes, he will not only need to score runs but he will have to show the aptitude to be a leader as well.
"The coach can only give ideas. We have to execute plans. It’s important to do well in the West Indies. I am confident the youngsters can do it,” said Raina.
That Raina, who himself is just 24, is confident that the ‘youngsters’ can do it is a clear sign that he has clearly put on the captain’s hat.
“It's a good challenge. We have good all-rounders, bowlers, batsmen. I am happy with the youngsters. They have done well in both first-class and IPL. I am looking forward to the challenge. I learnt a lot about captaincy from Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni - they captained the country with a lot of honesty. I believe as a captain you just have to play your game. It’s important to gel together as a team,” added Raina.
It’s important to gel no doubt but perhaps not as important to win. As captain and coach of the world champions, the focus will be on Raina and Fletcher, and in their own way, each shall have to shine.
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Updated Date: May 31, 2011 21:11:50 IST