Duncan Fletcher has had no impact on the Indian cricket team

As coach, Duncan Fletcher has seen India lose seven consecutive Test matches abroad.

India's Mahendra Dhoni, right, talks to India's coach Duncan Fletcher during a training session at the WACA in Perth, Australia on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012. Australia will play India in the third test starting Jan. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Theron Kirkman) *** Local Caption ***  Australia India Cricket.JPEG-0c526.jpg
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In the Coen Brothers' movie, it was the Rio Grande that was No Country for Old Men. For Duncan Fletcher and the Indian cricket team, it is Australia.

Fletcher coached England in 10 Tests there, losing nine and winning just a dead rubber in Sydney. With India, he has now presided over three successive defeats, each more embarrassing than the other.

In Perth, they barely managed to take the game into an eighth session. A team that was ranked No 1 in the world when he took over is now in free fall.

But while Fletcher has been able to do little to address the batting inadequacies so ruthlessly exposed in the English summer, the blame for the debacle lies squarely at the feet of those that did so much to raise Indian cricket's profile in the past decade. An ageing batting line-up has been no match for a rejuvenated Australian pace attack, and the Perth disaster saw David Warner score more (180) on his own than India managed in either innings.

In three Tests, India have been bowled out for 169, 191, 161 and 171. The seven consecutive defeats on the road include four by an innings. Except for Trent Bridge, where they had England in a corner at one stage, and Melbourne – where they were in control after the second day – India have been swatted aside.

Fletcher got what can best be described as a hospital pass from Gary Kirsten, who was among those that recommended his Cape Town mentor for the job. There were reservations at the time, given that Fletcher was approaching his 63rd birthday, and subsequent performances have done nothing to suggest that he is the man to oversee a period of transition.

Players who have worked with him talk of Fletcher's acumen as a batting coach, but as a collective, the past 12 months have seen the worst Indian displays in more than a decade. They were poor even against the West Indies at home, save for one big total on a placid Kolkata pitch.

There was a time when most Indian fans hoped that the three middle-order legends would choose their own exits. After such a humiliation, that's unlikely to be the case. VVS Laxman will be lucky to play in Adelaide. If he does, it will almost certainly be his last game.

Rahul Dravid, so assured and resolute throughout a disastrous English summer, has kept getting bowled, perhaps a sign of slowing reflexes as much as any technical issues. He turned 39 last Wednesday. As for Sachin Tendulkar, he has not scored a Test hundred since skipping the tour of the Caribbean last June.

Those that trade only in obsolete currency tried to make Virat Kohli the scapegoat after the Sydney defeat – when he was also caught on camera making a rude gesture to the crowd – but the 23 year old responded with two spirited knocks in Perth, top-scoring in each innings. At 23, he is a future Indian captain and the idea of him making way for those with no future was always preposterous.

If the selectors, who hid behind shameful excuses after the thrashing in England, want to wipe some egg off their faces, the best way forward is to give Rohit Sharma a debut in Adelaide. They could also drop Gautam Gambhir and give Ajinkya Rahane a game, to remind people that no one is indispensable. Gambhir has not scored a Test hundred in two years.

On the bowling side, it is hard to fathom how Eric Simons still has a job. Umesh Yadav has shown immense potential, but Ishant Sharma continues to drop the ball far too short. The selection of the pedestrian Vinay Kumar as a fourth seamer in Perth was a bad joke.

Australia's second change paceman was Mitchell Starc, whose height and pace brought him the wickets of Gambhir and Tendulkar. Nothing better illustrated the gulf between Michael Clarke's fast-improving side and one heading for the knacker's yard.


The suspended captain Dhoni came out to defend the under-fire coach. "He’s a great guy to have," Dhoni said.

"He’s one of the most experienced coaches around, the small technical things he knows about bowling and batting, it’s very crucial to have.

"It’s not like he has become the coach and we have lost two series and he’s to be blamed for all the defeats, it's up to the 11 players to go out and perform."  –– AFP