India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni backs coach Duncan Fletcher


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The Independent Online

India coach Duncan Fletcher has been given the backing of his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni despite being on the verge of a second successive away series whitewash since he took charge.

India were thrashed by an innings and 37 runs in Perth yesterday to surrender an unassailable 3-0 lead in their four-Test series against Australia.

The defeat left India facing the prospect of another whitewash under Fletcher, who oversaw a 4-0 thumping against England last summer in his first series in charge.

Former England coach Fletcher took over an India side on a high after their World Cup success on home soil last April, but the demise of his ageing side since led even Dhoni to admit they had hit one of the lowest points in recent history.

Despite that the skipper, who will miss the final Test in Adelaide next week due to a ban for slow over rates, is confident Fletcher is the right man for the job.

"Well of course, why not? He's a great guy to have, he's someone who has great knowledge about cricket," Dhoni said.

"He's one of the most experienced coaches around. The small and interesting technical things that he knows about with batting and bowling are very crucial to have.

"It's not like, he has become the coach and we have lost two series so then all the blame needs to go on him.

"Ultimately it's the players who look to go and perform. The coaches look to motivate them and if there are certain technical areas that need to be worked on they help them out with that.

"But overall the emphasis is on the 11 players to bowl and bat well."

Fletcher infamously led England to their 2005 Ashes win over Australia, with his calm and methodical demeanour seen as the corner piece of the drought-breaking success.

There have, however, been calls for a more outspoken leader to steer India through a period of transition.

With a number of their veteran batting stars deep in the winter of their careers India face the difficult challenge of ushering out legends such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir and VVS Laxman in the near future.

Dhoni admitted he would talk to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the senior players after the current tour about the direction of the team, with reports Laxman may even call time on his 133-Test career before the Adelaide Test.

The spotlight has also been on Dravid who while being Test cricket's leading scorer last year has struggled in Australia and, after turning 39 last week, has been bowled in eight of his past 10 innings.

Gambhir has not scored a Test century in over two years while Tendulkar, who is almost certinaly not going to be dropped before reaching a historic 100th international century, has been marooned one short of the mark for 10 months.

While Dhoni hinted he felt it was time for younger players such as Virat Kohli - who made a Test-best 75 yesterday - and Rohit Sharma to be given a more important role, he believes Fletcher and the BCCI will have a difficult balancing act to perform.

"We have to have a fair mix of young guys and older guys. It will be a process rather than an event," said Dhoni, who refuted claims the current selection team lacked the courage to drop their stars.

"It's not about courage, it's about taking the right decision.

"In this series people wanted Virat to be dropped and he batted well in this series. You have to give them extra time. That's how great cricketers are made."

The wicketkeeper-batsman was also defiant when asked if India were content to slip down the Test rankings, and were without a leader capable of delivering a dressing-room rollicking to stun them back into action.

"I know how serious I am about Test cricket," he said.

"Most of our cricketers have stepped up when the need has come. We don't need to take extreme measures. We have to do things in terms of the culture of the team.

"We need to do well as soon as possible. There is pressure on everybody, not just the players.

"Most of us are feeling bad about this because we are losing. At the end of the day we are professional cricketers but we are human beings as well."