Fletcher all smiles (sort of) as he plots downfall of team he took to heights

New India coach in jovial but mischievious mood as he talks up Swann but highlights Strauss's weakness

He was charming, engaged and informative. And was that a hint of roguish mischief playing around his lips? Never was he tetchy and if he did not come in slapping backs, that was fine by everybody.

Duncan Fletcher, one of the world's great cricket coaches, renewed his acquaintance with England yesterday. He was in charge of the national team for more than six years until 2007, he made them a team fit for the 21st century, he guided them to a legendary Ashes win.

It was to end in tears on all sides following, in rapid succession, the cataclysmic surrender of the urn that took so long to regain and a wretched World Cup campaign. But after a gap of four years, Fletcher has returned to the role of full-time international coach.

To general astonishment, at the age of 63, he was appointed two months ago to lead India. In that capacity he will spend the next two months plotting the downfall of the team he once took to the heights. This is perhaps his greatest challenge. With England he had the players to coach and the media to tolerate (he did the former sterlingly for much of the time, barely saw the need to do the latter). But now he has to try to ensure the best team in the world stay there, while being scrutinised by millions upon millions of cricket-crazy supporters who view the team as part of the family.

When he bowled up at Taunton yesterday for the tour curtain-raiser, the famous jowls jowlier then ever, he was happy to concede that he assumed it was all over for him at the highest level. "To be honest I think I did," he said. "It's strange being back in this role. When I left England I didn't think I'd be back involved in this way. But after doing some consultancy for South Africa, New Zealand and Hampshire I got the bug again. Then this opportunity came up and it was one I couldn't turn down. It does seem a bit strange to be back here, but I've enjoyed working with India. We had a good tour in West Indies and this will be an exciting series to be involved in."

Fletcher's credentials as a technical coach have never been in doubt. He could spot a glitch in a batting method at 500 paces, probably with his back to the action. He is not quite as clinical about bowling but he is no slouch, and he is the best edger of practice slip catches in the business.

But, boy, could he grumble about those who did not quite see the world through his pair of sunglasses. There was some apprehension about how he might approach his inaugural tour press briefing (there may not be many more). He shared a platform with the Indian captain, MS Dhoni, who was his usual bland, non-committal self. Dhoni clearly saves it all for the team.

There are two huge issues for Fletcher. The first is to work with the team at hand – a legend like Sachin Tendulkar, for a start, with others such as Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman not far behind. But then they are nearer the end than the beginning, so Fletcher may have to bring through the next generation.

He thinks he can do both.

"It happened in the West Indies where I did a bit of work with Rahul," he said. "Every batsman needs help at times, look at the top golfers who lose their game and someone has to be there to help identify the reason. I also work with the young players to pass on knowledge and make sure they get experience as quickly as possible." As India went through their first full net session in the Taunton sunshine, Fletcher spent a long time watching Tendulkar bat. He will have spotted something on which the little master can improve. If anything, he was mildly reluctant to talk about England.

As Fletcher rightly pointed out, the team had changed fairly considerably over the last few years. But he was generous in his assessment of both Andrew Strauss, the captain who he overlooked in favour of Andrew Flintoff for the humiliation that turned out to be the 2006-07 Ashes, and of Andy Flower, his fellow Zimbabwean ("that makes me proud") and successor but one as England coach. "They've got England back on track and it's ideal that Andy has struck up a good relationship with Strauss."

Fletcher was always big on the coach-captain relationship. It was why he felt blessed to have got on so well with Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan, both of whom would walk over hot coals to have a batting session with him but who occasionally despaired of his stubbornness. There was never the same chemistry with Flintoff, whose behaviour rattled him. Perhaps it is too early to tell how Fletcher and Dhoni will rub along, though Fletcher occasionally glanced at the captain yesterday with something approaching admiration.

During his time in charge, it was not only the press, who are perfectly capable of looking after themselves, that Fletcher sometimes annoyed. He would swiftly jettison those players who did not meet his demands. One of the most famous examples was Graeme Swann, now the number one spin bowler in the world.

"I think Swann has done really, really well," he said. "Sometimes, you've got to get out of your comfort zone and realise there is a big world out there and develop your game and that is what Swann has done. It is everything about him, he just appreciates what he's required to do on and off the field in the international arena, and you can see the way he holds himself, he is a very good cricketer now."

The mischief arrived when he talked of Strauss, his friend as well as his former opening bat. It has already been well chronicled that Strauss has his difficulties with left-arm pace and that Zaheer Khan is lying in wait. "From our point of view we have to be careful because there are other batsmen in that side we need to look at," said Fletcher. "The problem really lies with Straussy. If he feels he has a problem it's more a concern for him than us." Carefully sowing the seeds of doubt, you see. It will not all be hunky dory like yesterday, but it will be fun to see those Fletcher jowls in action again.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?