Fletcher dropped into trouble by new side's floundering in the field



There was no obvious change in Duncan Fletcher's expression, not even when Jonathan Trott survived a second catchable edge. But then, old poker face never did give much away in public, even when he was guiding England towards an Ashes triumph. Behind those dark glasses though, the mind must have been racing.

In many ways, Fletcher has landed himself in a no-win situation by taking on the job of India's chief coach (well, no-win if you discount an estimated annual salary of £800,000). His new team were World Cup winners and top of the Test table before he succeeded Gary Kirsten a couple of months ago, so there is no room for improvement on those counts.

But while the only way for India – be it this summer or sometime in the future – is down, Fletcher would not have taken the post without thinking he could make at least some of their players better cricketers. And roughly half a day of this series was more than enough to show everyone where he can begin.

In fact, Fletcher has started already by appointing Trevor Penney as India's fielding coach – the same Trevor Penney who was put to work on England during the 2005 Ashes series and who launched the process which has paid handsome dividends over the last year or so.

The trouble is, of course, no one can turn a poor fielding outfit into a crack catching, diving and throwing unit overnight. And if these two teams are as closely matched in terms of batting and bowling as everyone seems to think, the difference between winning and losing could come down to chances held and runs saved.

Any side can have a poor day in the field. Indeed, England fell below the sky-high standards they set themselves in Australia on two or three occasions during the three Tests against Sri Lanka earlier this summer. But India did look a long way short of impressive yesterday when dropping two catches, missing a clear run-out chance and often looking pedestrian over the turf.

There are quite a few old bones in this touring team with Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman producing a combined age of 112. Whether the march of time had anything to do with Dravid – who has been a mighty fine slip catcher for most of his career – failing to snap up a low chance snicked to him by Trott is uncertain, but England will hope to make India's three veterans do plenty of running in the field if and when the sun shines bright again.

Dravid could not be blamed for failing to snap up the second catch edged his way by Trott because on that occasion wicketkeeper MS Dhoni put him off by starting to go for the catch and then, inexplicably, stopping.

But it was not even those two wasted opportunities that would have particularly concerned Fletcher. More worrying, India's ground fielding looked sloppy. Zaheer Khan was labouring across the green, green grass of Lord's even before he trudged back to the Pavilion for treatment on a hamstring injury and Ishant Sharma, one of the young bucks at 22, missed the stumps with a throw from mid-on when Andrew Strauss was two yards from safety.

Penney, who was a wonderful fielder for Warwickshire, will do all he can to smarten up India's act. But it took his England opposite number, Richard Halsall, a couple of years – and dozens upon dozens of gruelling sessions – to bring about a level of improvement that astounded Australia during the winter.

England really have come a long way in the fielding stakes. How far? Well, no doubt Fletcher can remember a Test at Lord's, five years ago, when his side dropped a total of nine catches against Sri Lanka. India will do badly to match that performance but they have already done poorly enough to undermine Dhoni's decision to bowl first.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before