New Delhi: Armed with a laptop and deep analysis Duncan Fletcher is headed to India to coach the Men in Blue for the next two years.
Happily for India, 62-year-old Duncan Andrew Gwynne Fletcher is more famous for being Coach than Cricketer. He is the man who is credited with lifting the English cricket team from ranking last on the list of Test playing nations to right up there as No 2.
For all that, Fletcher never played Test cricket. England's first foreign coach was born a Zimbabwean. An all-rounder - left-handed batsman and a right-arm fast-medium bowler - and known for his sharp fielding, Fletcher was the first man to captain Zimbabwe in international cricket and it was he that led the team that beat Australia in the 1983 World Cup and almost beat India in the famous Tunbridge Wells match which skipper Kapil Dev came out to salvage at 17 for 5. India eventually lifted the World Cup that year.
Fletcher became England's first foreign coach ever in 1999, and he slowly coached a lacklustre team back into a winning combination. England lost some and then began winning home and away tours, recording eight consecutive Test wins against New Zealand and West Windies in 2004. But his golden moment came when England won the Ashes beating Australia 2-1 in 2005. England had won the Ashes after 18 years and Fletcher was rewarded with an OBE. That year he also got what he had waited 15 years for - a British citizenship.
If there were spectacular ups, there were spectacular downs too. Not least the 5-0 2006-07 'Tour of Hell' Ashes debacle just 15 months after England had won back the Ashes and a knock-out in the 2007 World Cup. Fletcher resigned after the World cup disaster.
Fletcher is known to keep a low media profile, while he builds the systems. He is known to focus on individual players - their strengths and weaknesses - spotting talent and then backing it to the hilt against odds. Michael Vaughan, who would later captain England, was one such player. Fletcher is also known as the man who built Team England with players playing for country first, not county.
His knack for having a good rapport with captains like Nasser Hussain and Vaughan should also work for him in India. Also, his focus on fielding, an area of weakness repeatedly identified in the Indian cricket team of late.
On the flip side, an early reaction is why a 62-year-old to replace the forty something Gary Kirsten. Also, Fletcher was widely criticised when England coach for persisting with his playing team despite performance issues.
Current England Captain Andrew Strauss wrote in the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2008, "Any cricketer who came into contact with Fletcher could not help but realise that this coach was completely different from any they had experienced before. All batsmen, without exception, were shepherded into a dark room at some stage early in their England career, to listen to Fletcher's theories on playing spin, which involved a white-board, plenty of lines showing different angles of deliveries, and finally why the "forward press" worked. He was never one for telling a player to do something unless he explained it thoroughly first."
In November 2007, Fletcher published his autobiography 'Behind The Shades'. He has since also been a consultant for the South Africa team.
India, unlike the England that Fletcher had famously inherited, is ranked as the No 1 Test side in the world. It has also just won the World Cup 2011.
Fletcher's first task is to continue from where Gary Kirsten left off and ensure very successful tours of the West Indies and, piquantly, England, starting June.