Duncan Fletcher last night became the latest sporting author to backtrack on the contents of a controversial book when he suggested that Andrew Flintoff should be given another crack at the England captaincy. Mike Catt and Lawrence Dallaglio have spent much of the past week attempting to withdraw from comments made about Brian Ashton, the England rugby coach, after the recent World Cup, and Fletcher’s words of encouragement for Flintoff can only have been brought on by the negative publicity he has received since revealing that the all-rounder turned up for practice before a one-day international in Australia drunk.
When asked if Flintoff might lead his country again, Fletcher replied: “I see no reason [why not] if he realises his responsibilities. If that foot lets him bowl as well as he can there’s no reason he shouldn’t be given another chance further down the line.”
Fletcher also stated on BBC One’s Inside Sport that it was Flintoff and not himself who brought the incident to everyone’s attention. “The secret was not revealed by me, the secret was revealed by Andrew Flintoff following the [pedalo] incident in the West Indies,” he said. “From my point of view, I was really upset at the time. At that time his actions could have led to me losing my job. That’s quite important; the pressures that I was under because of areas he was in control of.
“I wanted to be loyal to him but loyalty should be two-way traffic. I felt let down by the pedalo affair, I just think that I linked it directly to what happened in Sydney. If the pedalo affair hadn’t taken place there’s a very good chance we would have carried on managing Andrew.”
Nobody should begrudge Fletcher the opportunity to portray his side of the story, or even the odd attempt to settle an old score. Indeed, there were times when he did not deserve the criticism he received. But his reaction to the fallout is frankly rather pathetic. Having thoughtfully placed his views down in black and white, he should then at least have the courage to stand by them.
How can Fletcher really believe that Flintoff could one day be captain of England again? How can any cricketer open his heart to him as a coach in the future, when there is a strong chance that the conversation will one day appear in print? When Fletcher resigned as England coach at the end of this year’s World Cup there seemed to be a distinct possibility that he would be employed by an English county; now there seems little chance.
The revelations have shown how mistaken Fletcher was to make Flintoff captain for the 2006-07 Ashes, although it would be wrong to believe that he was drunk throughout the entire Test series. It was only after the 5-0 thumping and his wife, Rachael, had returned home that he began to err. However, it is not Fletcher or Flintoff, depending on your take, that people should feel sympathy for. It is Andrew Strauss. The decision helped to undermine the confidence and status of one of England’s most impressive characters.
It is Fletcher’s credibility that continues to take the biggest hit. In documenting his views, he has betrayed the traits that his seven-year dynasty was built on, namely trust and loyalty. Any player who told the media what went on within the England bubble was likely to be removed.
Flintoff, Ian Botham, Geoffrey Boycott, Chris Read, Rod Marsh and David Graveney are not the only ones to be lambasted by Fletcher; apparently, I am also. I gather that Fletcher took exception to me being on the Schofield Review Group, questioning my discretion as a journalist. He was also unhappy that I wrote it was time for him to go following a totally abject performance against Bangladesh in the World Cup.
Yet, unsurprisingly, he was happy to have Nasser Hussain, his former captain and perpetual apologist, present on the committee. Apparently, he could trust Hussain. The way in which these two continually “big each other up” has become nauseating and it was slightly ironic that the newspaper to which Hussain contributes exclusively released the findings of the Schofield Report on the morning they were to be announced.
Fletcher is a megalomaniac who has little time for things and people he cannot control. He performed many great deeds during his time with England but, sadly, they are not his legacy. It is for weak management, the inability to admit to mistakes, a reluctance to take responsibility and a selfish obsession with how he was being portrayed by the media that he will be remembered. Funny people, folk.