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Cool and aloof, Fletcher praised for England highs, blamed for lows

Cool and aloof, Fletcher praised for England highs, blamed for lows

Duncan Fletcher lifted England from a crisis to an Ashes triumph over Australia and status as second best cricket team in the world.
He should have stopped there.
The critics say that the colorless Zimbabwean, who neither smiles nor frowns amid England's occasional highs but frequent lows, stayed on too long. Now the team has slipped back to close to where it was when he took over in 1999.
There's no doubt that the 58-year-old former Zimbabwe test and one-day cricketer has proved himself as a standout coach and England has benefited immensely.
When he took over in June 1999, England was losing to almost everyone and had slipped to next to last in the then eight-nation rankings of test playing nations. It had just lost heavily to South Africa in one of 11 on-the-road series losses in 13 years and the headlines and criticisms were getting more vitriolic with each defeat.
Now the situation is much the same and Fletcher's time has run out. England announced that his 7 1/2 year spell at the helm will end on Saturday after its final World Cup game against host West Indies.
Cold and aloof, he has never endeared himself to the media and made little contact with the thousands of England fans, known as the "Barmy Army", who followed the team all around the world.
But he gained their admiration for getting results.
First with Nasser Hussain and then Michael Vaughan as captain, the team won series in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and South Africa and, during 2004, posted a best ever seven victories in a row _ 3-0 over New Zealand and 4-0 over West Indies. The one-day team also reached the final of the ICC Champions Trophy before losing to West Indies.
Turning into 2005, that test series streak stretched to eight and then came the real highlight.
It was a thrilling 2-1 victory over traditional foe Australia in 2005 to regain the treasured Ashes for the first time in 16 years. Fletcher and the squad were honored by Queen Elizabeth II and England was officially named as the second best team in the world behind the Australians, who once seemed unbeatable.
But England's impressive rise was followed by a spectacular fall and Fletcher has taken the blame.
A recurring knee injury sidelined Vaughan for long spells and England totally lost the consistency it had with him in charge. Fletcher couldn't get the same results under Andrew Strauss and Andrew Flintoff and the team lost series in Pakistan and tied one in India before its disastrous defense of the Ashes.
For the first time in 86 years, England was swept 5-0 by the Australians and the critics grew louder and louder.
A surprise one-day competition victory over Australia and New Zealand lifted hopes that the team might do well at the World Cup. Instead the slide continued.
The night after a six-wicket loss to New Zealand in a group game, several of the players went on a drinking binge with Flintoff having to be rescued from the sea riding a pedalo. They were each fined and Flintoff was stripped of the captaincy and dropped from the next match.
It was a sign that Fletcher's control and influence on the players had diminished while the results _ losses to Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa in the Super 8s _ underlined that the team was in decline.
Fletcher's body language and dead-bat comments to the media didn't help his image.
Not the type to dance around in delight with each victory, he chooses to sit quietly behind his sunglasses without revealing whatever inner feelings he may have.
But the reaction to each defeat remains exactly the same.
England now badly needs a motivator and it won't be Fletcher.
When the news was announced on Thursday that Fletcher was going, there was a hint of emotion as he shook hands with the players at training. Few people outside the England team, however, will be shedding any tears.


Updated : 2021-10-28 01:11 GMT+08:00