Fletcher defends Vaughan's leadership

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The Independent Online

Duncan Fletcher has leapt to the defence of England's new captain, Michael Vaughan, following the humiliating 191-run defeat by South Africa at Headingley on Monday.

Vaughan, whose relaxed style of leadership, which is in stark contrast to Nasser Hussain, his predecessor, has received criticism for letting things drift in the field and not being tough enough with his players during his three matches in charge. After losing the fourth Test England find themselves 2-1 down in the series with one match, starting at The Oval on 4 September, to play.

"People must realise that Michael is just learning," the England coach said. "There have been some great captains who have just walked around and have been very quiet men - people do the job in different ways. He might have to work on his body language a bit out on the pitch, but all captains have different styles. When the dressing-room door is shut he speaks very well."

Fletcher, who had an excellent working relationship with Hussain during their time in charge, admitted that there was a different feel to things under Vaughan. "You can't deny the fact that a change has taken place," he said. "There is a difference, but when Nasser and I first went to South Africa together four years ago it was probably an even stranger situation because I did not know Nasser at all."

The hardest thing for the pair as they build their relationship is knowing who should take charge of certain situations. Only when you have worked with someone for a period of time, and know them inside out, do you automatically know when the time is right.

"I can't go into the dressing-room the same way as I was with Nasser," Fletcher said. "There were times when Nasser would say to me 'Duncan, you take charge,' when it was probably his role and that was a good thing about that relationship. Vaughan is still on a learning curve and it is important we give him the space to find his feet.

"The one thing you have to be careful about with a new captain is that you can take control, and then where does he [the captain] go. Sometimes when a new captain comes in you have to fall back a little bit to let him find his feet - that's quite important."

The one subject the pair already seem to agree on is that county cricket is not producing the type of player they want in their team. "Bicknell came in and couldn't believe how hard it [Test cricket] was," Fletcher said. "He said that in county cricket he could run in and bowl four or five overs and get away with it but in Test cricket every ball was a major event. He was absolutely washed out, totally drained.

"Players in this country play a lot of cricket of cricket," he added, "but they don't have to play it with the intensity they would in the southern hemisphere. They can play seven or eight matches in a competition and the very first game they lose they are out and it's that sort of intensity we do not have here, where every game is important."

* The India Test batsman Rahul Dravid would like to sign for another season with the Scottish Saltires. The 30-year-old has struck three centuries and two 50s in his nine games for the Scotland side in a successful inaugural season in the National League. Dravid said: "If it's possible I would definitely like to come back next year. Obviously a lot of things depend on the international season next year. I have to get permission from the Board of Control for Cricket in India who I am contracted to."