A Tale Of Two Medias: Duncan Fletcher As India Coach

Andrew Miller has a balanced take on Duncan Fletcher’s appointment as India coach. He focuses in particular on Fletcher’s strained relationship with the English press:

[S]o much of this went unappreciated throughout Fletcher’s often fractious England tenure, ironically because his single biggest failing was one of communication – not within the squad, for his man-management was by all accounts superb (at least among those who bought into his approach), but through (and to) the media. The advent of central contracts aided and abetted the creation of what became known as the England “bubble”, and Fletcher simply did not see any reason to prick the surface tension, and serve up his thoughts to anyone beyond the inner sanctum.

That obstinate attitude made for some memorable battles of wills with the British press in the course of his seven-year tenure. To his lasting credit, Fletcher invariably fronted up when his team had suffered one of their intermittent stinkers in the field, although those dreaded “Duncan Days” had become a self-parody long before his time in the job was up, with every new transcript an exercise in forensics.

So what will Fletcher face in the Indian media? For my part, I have increasingly little respect for India’s broadcast news industry, and just a smidgen more for its biggest English newspapers. The Times of India, the biggest game in town, has become utter filth — the writing is awful; the rah-rah India tone unbearable, and the news judgment largely absent. And when you think of some of the controversies that dogged Greg Chappell — namely, did he or did he not give the middle finger to Indian fans? — you have to fear for Fletcher’s heart.

But on the other hand, as Miller notes later in his piece, it’s become accepted practice for smart foreign coaches — that is, everybody other than Chappell — to keep the press at arm’s distance. And I think most Indian reporters accept this practice, even though they no doubt hate it. Gary Kirsten gave almost no interviews during his term, and only consented after the World Cup victory (when coverage was unlikely to be hostile, to say the least). Now, Kirsten pulled that off for two reasons: 1) Dhoni can handle the press well, when he wants to; 2) India did well — really well. If India falter in the next two years — more specifically, if they fail badly in Australia — Fletcher will need to be prepared to answer questions like, “Uh, why aren’t you Gary Kirsten? Oh, and also, did you just give us the middle finger?”

On the whole,- and, please, correct me if I’m wrong, it seems much tougher to control the English press, rather than the Indian one. Indian journalists can be invasive, they can be prickly, and they can often times be foolish, but when the BCCI wants to ignore them — or, at the very least, say that Fletcher is off-limits — I don’t see what recourse Indian cricket reporters have.

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