ECB chairman insists Fletcher will guide England at World Cup

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The Independent Online

Duncan Fletcher, England's under-fire coach, yesterday received the full backing of, David Morgan, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board. Fletcher has come under growing pressure following England's 5-0 whitewash in the Ashes and their disappointing displays in the current one-day series in Australia.

There are some who feel that Fletcher should go before the World Cup while others believe he will stand down when England's involvement in the tournament has finished. Morgan, whose relationship with Fletcher goes back to when the pair held similar positions with Glamorgan in the late Nineties, did not rule out the possibility of him going, buthopes he will continue to coach England during next summer's Test series against West Indies.

"I can say categorically Duncan will coach the side in the World Cup," said Morgan on the eve of England's crucial one-day match against New Zealand. "He has my full backing. Beyond that depends on how Duncan feels and how we get on in the World Cup. He has my support and the support of the England team, which is very important.

"The pressure on Duncan would be very strong if England had a poor World Cup, but I'm very hopeful we will do better than in recent times. Our record in the last two World Cups has been pretty poor and our record in one-day cricket leaves a lot to be desired.

"To realise what Duncan has done you have to turn the clock back a bit. In 2004 and 2005, most people were talking and writing about this great England coach who should be given a British passport and citizenship and so on. I am not the sort of person who puts a great value on somebody one day and has a major change of mind in no time at all.

"This man is a very good coach. You talk to people and captains who work with him. This man is a proven coach who has delivered results. We need to realise that we have come up against a highly motivated and highly organised Australian team this winter. They are a highly effective unit. I think, and I know that Australians believe, that had we come away from the second Test in Adelaide with a draw the Ashes series would have been a very different indeed. We lost that Test in the most improbable circumstances, such that Australia were given a massive lift and our chaps must have felt very, very low indeed."

Speculation about a possible successor to Fletcher increased over the weekend when Tom Moody, the Sri Lanka coach, stated that he did not want to be considered for the Australia job, which becomes vacant at the end of the World Cup. Moody, a former Australia all-rounder, was being widely tipped as John Buchanan's successor.

Moody's decision, and the fact that he lives in England with his English wife when not coaching Sri Lanka, has led people to believe he has been approached by the ECB to take over from Fletcher. Morgan denied this. "We have approached no other coach to take over from Duncan and I anticipate that he will be coaching England at the start of next summer," he said.

"The fact that Duncan is on a staff contract, as opposed to fixed term, means the risk of us being caught out [if Fletcher were to resign at the end of the World Cup] is slightly greater but, as in every other business situation, we do have contingency issues. We do not have to name a new coach overnight and we have other coaches on our staff who could replace him."

* The former England batsman Mark Ramprakash has agreed a new three-year contract with Surrey. Last summer the 37-year-old became the first Englishman since himself in 1995 to score more than 2,000 first-class runs, ending the season with 2,278 and an average of more than 100 as Surrey secured promotion back to the First Division of the County Championship.