Cricket: Fletcher the consummate professional

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The Independent Online
THE IMAGE of Duncan Fletcher the martinet does not sit easily with the man, or with Glamorgan for that matter. He enjoys a laugh with the next man; nor does he want to put all his players through an all- work no-play regimen.

The 50-year-old Fletcher's skill has been finding the balance between cramming heads with technical information and encouraging natural talent to the fore. It has worked reasonably well to date.

As an example of what he is capable of achieving with young players in particular, you only have to look at the case of Darren Thomas, the Glamorgan paceman. As a teenager Thomas had hit the First Class scene with a bang, taking five wickets on his debut in 1993. By the time Fletcher arrived for the 1997 season, Thomas was heading for the scrap heap. He was in the last year of his contract and truly did not believe that he would be offered a new one.

It apparently took Fletcher two deliveries to put Thomas back on track. He needed to watch two balls in the nets and he was able to put Thomas right, adjusting his run-up, his delivery stride, slowing down a little not trying to blast the batsmen out, but rather encouraging the bowler to think them out.

So successful was Fletcher that it was Thomas's five wickets in the second innings against Somerset which helped Glamorgan to the County Championship - their first for 28 years - at the end of that season. And on the England A tour last winter Thomas finished with a bucketload of wickets.

That Championship triumph came in Fletcher's first spell with Glamorgan. He had signed a one-year deal with them in November 1996, but he did not take up an option to stay, returning instead to Western Province, where he has enjoyed a huge amount of success since taking charge in 1993.

It is with Western Province that the former Zimbabwe captain has developed Jacques Kallis, who looks as if he will be fit to play for the Welsh county from mid-July. Kallis would never have agreed to play for Glamorgan were it not for the presence of Fletcher.

At Glamorgan they say his three strengths are technical ability - evidenced by his handling of Thomas; his man management; and his rapport with his captain, Matthew Maynard.

He is capable of a laugh and the players, especially the youngsters, hang on his every word, even though he bellowed at Robert Croft's prank of cutting holes in his socks so that his toes peeped through on his arrival in Cardiff two years ago.

He and Maynard would appear to be a perfect complement, even down to Fletcher eschewing the limelight and remaining in the shadows, content for Maynard to face the media and all its attendant interest.

If straightforward disciplinary standards are what have prompted people to regard Fletcher askance then they can have no appreciation of what it takes to succeed at the highest level. He wants players to concentrate and think about the game. He watches every ball bowled and is forever analysing. He encourages players, especially the younger ones to do the same. But to achieve that he needs to instill certain disciplined behaviour.

He has banned sleeping in the dressing-room during matches; prohibited the use of mobile phones within his earshot - the ringing of one incurs a pounds 10 fine (with England being sponsored, in part, by Vodaphone, that could have interesting developments); and imposed a strict dress code.

Nor is he likely to tolerate the hangers-on who have accumulated over the years. The England camp followers will get short shrift from Fletcher.

Fletcher was no mean player himself. He captained Zimbabwe and when they beat Australia at Trent Bridge in the 1983 World Cup, he scored an unbeaten 69 and then took 4 for 42.

He is a quiet, articulate man, with high professional standards, who can communicate, and relate, well with players. Let's hope England listen.

FLETCHER FACTS

n He is married to Marina and has two children, Michael and Nicola.

n He is a strict disciplinarian and has fined Glamorgan players who have turned up late for practice.

n He has been known to fine players who arrive at a ground, or mingle with spectators after close of play, while not wearing their official club uniform.

n He encourages warming-down exercises at the close of each day's play.

n He captained Zimbabwe to victory over Australia in the 1983 World Cupand was voted man of the match.

n He is a fanatical rugby union fan and will be at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow for Wales v South Africa.

n He is believed to be miffed at being referred to as 53 years old. He is 50.

n When he coached South Africa A on their 1996 tour of England, he made sure that coloured spinner Paul Adams was in the party.

n As Western Province coach he was responsible for the development of, among others, Jacques Kallis.

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