Coach Fletcher gets new contract

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The Independent Online

England cricket coach Duncan Fletcher has been given a two-year contract extension through to 2003.

England cricket coach Duncan Fletcher has been given a two-year contract extension through to 2003.

Fletcher, whose current contract expires next September, will coach England in the next World Cup in South Africa in February and March 2003 and beyond.

He said: "I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to further build on the success we enjoyed this summer, winning the Wisden Trophy and the NatWest Series.

"We have a good squad, who are well motivated and committed to continuing to improve their performances. There is a lot of work still to be done, but we are certainly moving in the right direction."

Three other members of the England management team - Phil Neale (operations manager), Dean Conway (physiotherapist) and Nigel Stockill (physiologist) - also accepted, two-year contract extensions.

Since taking over the post in the aftermath of last year's disappointing World Cup campaign, Fletcher has revitalised the spirit and work ethic in the squad alongside captain Nasser Hussain, and after losing last winter's Test series in South Africa, England swept all before them in the recent domestic summer.

They claimed an early season 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe, won the triangular one-day tournament and then completed a memorable summer by claiming their first series win over West Indies in 31 years amid emotional scenes at the Oval.

Fletcher's decision to accept the improved deal, which is believed to be worth around £125,000 a year, ends England's anxiety that the vast pressure he has felt in the last year could result in him turning his back on a job which he described recently as "immense".

His family still live in Cape Town, where he was formerly coach of Western Province, and chairman of selectors David Graveney conceded: "His existence is a fairly nomadic one and his family must come first."

For now, Fletcher has clearly decided that the challenge of revitalising England's fortunes are greater than any family ties and the opportunity to continue the steady progress made during the summer was too great a temptation to resist.

Since taking over, Fletcher has had a noticeable effect on the standard of fielding within the squad while practice sessions appear to have a clear purpose rather than the disjointed exercises under his predecessors.

Those methods still have not transferred to consistency on the pitch, as their disappointing exit from the ICC Knockout Trophy in Nairobi to South Africa demonstrated earlier this week, but he has instilled an inner belief that was previously lacking.