India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has full faith in chief coach Duncan Fletcher but his confidence in the Zimbabwean may not echo in the corridors of Board of Control for Cricket in India. Captain Cool and senior Board functionaries are clearly not on the same page as Ravi Shastri's appointment as Team India director for the ODI series in England seems to have received a lukewarm response.
Much of Sunday's pre-match press conference ahead of the first ODI at Bristol centered around Shastri's appointment. The former all-rounder, now a respected TV expert, was given the job to oversee the team's cricket operations. As per protocol, Fletcher and the entire coaching staff was to report to Shastri. That Dhoni is unhappy with such an arrangement is eloquently clear. (Also read: Ian Chappell slams Dhoni, calls him a series offender in Tests)
Speaking to reporters in Bristol, Dhoni not only gave Fletcher his complete support in the current series but said the former England coach will guide India till the 2015 World Cup. "He (Fletcher) will lead us into the World Cup. Also he is still the boss," Dhoni said, amply hinting that Shastri will have nothing to with team strategy and at best, will help in better communication between the coach and players. (Related: Shastri says Team India will learn from defeats in England)
BCCI will not take kindly to Dhoni's comments. Several former stars have felt that Shastri's appointment midway through a series was "ill-timed." Chopping and changing the bowling (Joe Dawes) and fielding coach (Trevor Penney) and retaining the chief coach was ludicrous, said Ajit Agarkar. Rahul Dravid, who was being seen as Fletcher's successor, slammed the decision to modify the coaching staff and suddenly a troika - Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R. Sridhar -- of Indians as Fletcher's assistants
The Board's mood was exposed by secretary Sanjay Patel, who is seen as the main man behind the radical changes in the support staff. On Monday, Patel said the views expressed by the captain were his "personal opinion".
"I have not spoken to Dhoni and so the BCCI will not like to react to his comments," said Patel. Reportedly, it was Patel who broke the 'news' of Shastri's appointment through a midnight call to Dhoni and Fletcher last Tuesday.
Fletcher took over as coach of the national Indian cricket team from the highly acclaimed Gary Kirsten, on April 27, 2011. Under his guidance, India won eight tournaments in 2013, including Champions Trophy. (Related: Fletcher can't be blamed for India's debacle, says Alec Stewart)
India's recent Test defeats in England though has put the Zimbabwean's role under the scanner. But for Dhoni, who often says a process if more important than results,Â Fletcher remains the man in-charge.
"We have Ravi Shastri who will look into everything, but Fletcher is the boss. It's not as if his powers or his position have been curtailed. I don't know what you feel from the outside, but operations still remain the same. We have a few other support staff (Bangar, Arun and Sridhar) coming into the dressing room, but overall the operation remains the same," Dhoni clarified.
Dhoni mixed caution with aggression. His unhappiness over dumping Dawes and Penney was also clear.
"It's a bit tough on Trevor (Penney) and Joe (Dawes), especially when fielders drop catches and the fielding coach has to miss the series. But let's hope for the best. We are welcoming the new guys because that is very important." (When Fletcher, Dawes oversaw India's training session)
Dhoni has always been seen as an establishment's man. His proximity to suspended BCCI president N. Srinivasan is no secret. But during this England series, Dhoni has been rather aggressive towards the cricket administration. First, it was the ICC during the Ravindra Jadeja-James Anderson 'Pushgate' controversy at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. Now, he has taken the BCCI head on over chopping and changing the coaching staff, probably much against his wishes.