England show extended faith in Fletcher

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The Independent Online

Duncan Fletcher, England's quiet but effective coach, yesterday accepted a two-year extension to his contract. Unless unforeseen circumstances dictate otherwise, he will remain in the job at least until September 2003, a period that includes the next World Cup.

Duncan Fletcher, England's quiet but effective coach, yesterday accepted a two-year extension to his contract. Unless unforeseen circumstances dictate otherwise, he will remain in the job at least until September 2003, a period that includes the next World Cup.

The offer, coming after a successful summer for England, suggests a faith in Fletcher from his employers, the England and Wales Cricket Board, rarely shown to his predecessor, David Lloyd. But whereas Lloyd was all passion and riddles, the 52-year-old Fletcher has exuded a calm authority seemingly unaffected by the team's performances.

"I'm extremely pleased to have the opportunity to further build on the success we had this summer, winning the Wisden Trophy and the NatWest Series," Fletcher said. "We have a good squad, who are well motivated. There is a lot of work still to be done, but we are certainly moving in the right direction."

Having captained Zimbabwe, Fletcher's greatest moment as a player came when he engineered victory over Australia in the 1983 World Cup. But if that is a cherished memory, his reputation as a coach, honed first with Western Province and then at Glamorgan, is growing.

With a home in Cape Town, Fletcher will have weighed up several factors before committing himself to more time away from his family. He is not one for wasting effort and an important consideration will have been that the players, already showing a steady improvement under his tutelage, are willing to work even harder to continue the trend.

Three other members of the England management team, Phil Neale, Dean Conway and Nigel Stockhill (operations manager, physio and physiologist respectively), have accepted similar extensions to their contracts. Continuity, it seems, is as important off the pitch as on.

Over the past decade, coaching England has been a job more precarious than managing the Dome. With the quiet Zimbabwean running the show the international side will hopefully turn out to be more of a success, though for some, he may have to win next summer's Ashes, as well as the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, to prove it.

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