Matthew Hoggard: Hard to read and hard as nails but away from the public glare Duncan is tremendous company

What I Learnt This Week
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I played all but a handful of my 67 Tests under Duncan Fletcher but never came up with a convincinganswer to the one question that stumped friend and foe alike during his eight-year reign as England coach: just what went on behind those dark glasses?

To say that Fletch kept his emotions in check when on duty would be just about the biggest understatement in cricket. While watching England at work, you could only ever guess what he was thinking – good, bad or indifferent – because the mask never slipped in public, not even during that dramatic Ashes series of 2005 when the nation lived on its nerves for two months.

Now Duncan is back. And while he will be wearing India's colours and looking down from the visitors' dressing room balcony, I would not expect him to be any different this summer. It will be business as usual for Fletcher – and the business he has in mind, I'm sure, is beating England in a Test series to keep his new team on top of the rankings.

I certainly would not say that Duncan and I were close – we were neither the best of friends nor the worst of enemies – but we had a working relationship, and there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that he was (and, I'm sure, still is) a very good and very astute coach who did wonders for England.

One thing I particularly liked about him was that if you asked a question and he was not 100 per cent sure of the answer, he wouldn't venture an opinion until he had gone away, analysed it upside down and back to front and come up with a considered verdict.

And away from cricket, while I could not say I knew him well, he was definitely a lot more outgoing and open in private situations where there were no members of the public or media looking on.

For example, he told us some fascinating tales about his upbringing in Zimbabwe and the amazing life he had lived in that country. In fact, I particularly enjoyed it when he'd had a glass or two of chardonnay and would stray into story-telling mode.

I know a lot of people might find this hard to believe but Duncan can be a very funny man. He has a lovely, dry sense of humour and can be really enjoyable company.

What no one should ever doubt, though, is his strength. He's a hard man, in every way, and I'll give you just a couple of examples.

After we had won a Test on one of my early tours, everyone was messing around and celebrating the victory when Ashley Giles and somebody else decided to pour an "esky" full of ice-cold water over the coach. Most people would have leapt about 10 feet in the air, shrieking and hollering in shock, but I promise you, Fletch didn't even flinch.

And on another occasion, when we were spread across the outfield doing fielding drills, I accidentally hit him with a wayward throw. The ball smashed into his shoulder but he didn't bat an eyelid – just carried on as though nothing had happened.

In some ways, he will need an especially thick skin in his new job. I wasn't surprised to hear he had taken it – not for a £1m a year, or whatever it is, I wasn't – but I would not think for a minute he will enjoy all the media hype and 24-hour-a-day attention that surrounds the Indian cricket team.

As everyone knows from his England days, Duncan is not the media's best friend and it will be interesting to see what his relationship is like with the Indian journalists, because cricket has 10 times the coverage over there!

That aside, though, Fletcher has two big advantages compared to when he took on the England job in 1999.

Firstly, he is now with a team that is on top of the world, in both Test and 50-over cricket, rather than one at rock bottom (as England were 12 years ago). So, from that point of view, he does not need to change very much. And, secondly, he can find out plenty of background from Gary Kirsten, India's last coach and a friend of Fletcher's from their time together in South Africa.

The key, I suppose, will be his relationship with all those senior India players, like Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman. But Fletcher is especially good at standing back, watching and absorbing detail,and then having quiet words with people on a one-to-one basis.

His job will be to help India to maintain the very high standards they have already set by making sure that everyone is properly prepared and in the right frame of mind for the next challenge. He will enjoy that – just as he'll enjoy analysing England's strengths and weaknesses and using his first- hand knowledge of those players he coached over here.

This was always going to be a tough Test series for England. With Fletcher in the opposition camp, it is likely to be tougher still.

2. Broad v Bresnan dilemma likely to come down to gut feeling

While we are on the subject of England v India, and especially with Thursday's first Test at Lord's in mind, it looks as though someone will have a very hard decision to make on the morning of the match.

Assuming there are no injury complications, both Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan should be in the squad. But with Anderson, Tremlett and Swann nailed on, one out of Broad and Bresnan will miss out on a place in the final XI.

I rate both of them. Despite his recent struggles, Broady is clearly a very talented cricketer. I think the big thing for him at the moment is to get his head around what sort of bowler he wants to be – an enforcer, sending down plenty of bouncers, or a pitch-it-up, line-and-length type. And, as for Bressie, well he showed exactly what he could do for England while performing brilliantly towards the end of the Ashes series.

Yes, it's a tough choice all right, but at least it is a choice between two quality cricketers rather than a pick between two blokes you're not sure about. In the end, it will probably come down to Andrew Strauss's gut feeling.

3. Grooving down at Glastonblaby – and my champagne lifestyle

Every cloud has a silver lining. With most of my right arm still in plaster after that coming together with a punch bag, I've been available for a few more things away from cricket. And two events in particular over the past week were particularly enjoyable.

You'll know all about Glastonbury, I'm sure, when it comes to music festivals. But Glastonblaby? Well, it is growing, I can tell you, and has just enjoyed a successful second anniversary.

For those who don't know, Blaby is in Leicestershire. And it is now the venue for a concert in memory of a young lad, Harley Staples, who died a couple of years ago.

Local musicians performed in front of an enthusiastic audience last weekend to raise money for the Harley Staples Cancer Trust – and I was delighted to do my MC bit by introducing one of the bands.

As for my midweek trip to Wormsley, in Buckinghamshire, for the Veuve Cliquot six-a-side cricket tournament, all that was required of me was to sit back, sip a little champagne and enjoy the surroundings at a beautiful ground.

Well, someone had to do it.

4. I'm on a high after spotting an otter – definitely not a mink

Despite the two events just mentioned – and both were thoroughly enjoyable – I have to say that the highlight of this week for me, as a good old country boy, was seeing an otter in the wild for the first time.

As you may have gathered, I love animals (well, apart from horses that attack me, that is) but the otter is right up there among my favourites. I just think they are fantastic creatures and I always head in their direction whenever we go to the zoo or to a nature reserve.

But to see one in the wild, while I was out walking the dogs, was just terrific. Sightings of them are pretty rare, but I could hardly miss this one, because he was thoroughly enjoying himself in the river, making a nice bow wave as he swam and looking as though he didn't have a care in the world.

The only tiny disappointment was that I couldn't get a picture, because it was quite late in the evening and starting to get dark.

But I'm 100 per cent certain it was an otter – and not a mink, as someone suggested it might be – having studied images of both creatures once I got home.

5. Someone doesn't like me, or is this a Scottish wind-up?

So there you are – it doesn't take much to make Hoggy happy. But while no one can please all of the people all of the time, it seems as though I will struggle to please one of the people any of the time.

A piece of "fan mail" arrived through the post from a gentleman in Paisley stating: "Things I learned this week: do not by (sic) the Indy on a Saturday as Matthew 'I love myself' Hoggard has a column in it."

Oh dear. Still, I've learned that there is apparently more than one way to spell "buy" and that it is possible to decipher anyone's hand writing if you study it hard enough.

6. Claire Taylor's fantastic career did wonders for women's game

Somebody who, hopefully, has received lots of genuine fan mail over the last week or so is the newly retired Claire Taylor. She may not be a household name but her contribution to the highly successful England women's cricket team over many years has been immense. Well done on a brilliant career, Claire.

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