Team India, make way for Team Duncan

If India's selectors are anticipating - and hoping - that new coach Duncan Fletcher will look to settle quietly into his job they may be pleased with initial proceedings. But he won't be a passenger for long.

During his eight years as England coach, when he also had a vote in selection, Fletcher demonstrated a shrewd, perceptive eye for a player - like how he identified eventual Ashes winners Marcus Trescothick and Simon Jones despite having mediocre county statistics. But with that went an obstinacy that could upset fellow selectors. And there were fallouts.

Fletcher was able to assert his authority in selection immediately in England because he had reliable, prior knowledge of players and the system through coaching Glamorgan in county cricket. He doesn't have that luxury in India and therefore a more circumspect approach at first may be the way to go.

 Team India, make way for Team Duncan

Duncan Fletcher will be attending his first selection meeting as India coach. AFP / Alexander Joe

Whatever his faults and prickliness as a character, give him time and he will unearth players from the Indian system that few people had any belief in. He spots a talent and nurtures it well.

When Fletcher sits in on the selection meeting on Friday in Chennai with skipper MS Dhoni, bowling coach Eric Simons and the selection panel, to choose the squads for the West Indies tour, he would be a wise man to sit back and observe, if only for now.

He would undoubtedly have consulted his predecessor and friend Gary Kirsten on what to expect from the whole package in his new job, and that includes the workings and culture of the selection committee, which would have helped him form some initial thoughts. But Fletcher is very much his own man and will be curious to understand the process and the opinions around the table.

Fletcher worked with Simons at Western Province in the 1990s and will no doubt be probing him for information on players, on the atmosphere in the dressing room, how do the seniors conduct themselves with the juniors, who are the meek characters, what is Dhoni like as a leader? These are all questions Fletcher will soon have answers to through his own experiences.

He will know that his relationship with Dhoni will be the key to the whole project. His success with England was only possible because he cultivated a smooth, friendly and informed team within a team with Nasser Hussain and latterly Michael Vaughan.

So at this stage Fletcher will identify a 'catch-up' with Dhoni before or after the selection meeting probably as more vital than the selection forum, which would be more about an information-gathering session while he bides his time and understands the job and learns more about the current group of players.

And once he does have a fair idea on the way the Indian machine works, he will begin to ensure his words are heard and followed. Fletcher was regarded by England's players as a good communicator and this should be no different with India. But he won't be so worried about upsetting selectors or administrators once firmly ensconced in the role.

With England for instance, he clashed with Australian Test legend Rodney Marsh over the way he disregarded keeper Chris Read. While Read was nurtured and highly-rated by Marsh through the academy system that he presided over in the early days, Fletcher had no time for him and preferred Geraint Jones.

It was no surprise then when the horribly out of form Jones was dropped for Read against Pakistan in the 2006 English summer that Jones was somehow back in the team for the first Ashes Test three months later despite Read doing little wrong.

That is the kind of persuasive influence that the stony-faced Fletcher can have on a team unit.

Ultimately, results will dictate just how much influence he is allowed to have with India, but if he builds on the encouraging work that Kirsten has started, it might prove difficult for selectors and officials to say 'no' to Team Duncan, sorry, Team India.

Updated Date: May 13, 2011 06:10:01 IST