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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Fletcher's legacy
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport in the Caribbean

Duncan Fletcher
Fletcher's refusal to change the batting order was heavily criticised

Duncan Fletcher's career as England coach began shortly after the side were booed off the field at The Oval in 1999 when defeat by New Zealand left them bottom of the Test rankings.

It ended in similar fashion - with boos resounding around the Kensington Oval after a lame defeat by South Africa ended their 2007 World Cup chances.

After the World Cup showing - in which the only Test nation they beat was Bangladesh - and the 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia [even though England still sit second in the Test rankings] it may take some time to put Fletcher's reign back in context.

Since taking the helm he has played a part in a period of sustained success not achieved since the 1950s.

He formed an instant bond with new captain Nasser Hussain and in his second home series, West Indies were beaten for the first time in 31 years.

ODIs UNDER FLETCHER
Won 74, lost 82, tied 2, NR 7
2003 World Cup: 1st round
2007 World Cup: 2nd round
Highest score: 391 v Bdesh, Nottingham, 2005
Lowest score: 86 v Aus, Manchester, 2001
Highest conceded: 353 v Pkn, Karachi, 2005
Lowest conceded: 92 v Zim, Bristol, 2003

There were famous victories on tour in Pakistan and Sri Lanka the following winter and an historic series win in the West Indies in 2004, for the first time since 1968.

England won a national record eight successive Tests in 2004, including all seven matches at home to New Zealand and West Indies, before touring South Africa.

And of course there was the 2005 Ashes triumph, which captured the imagination of the entire country.

It saw the team celebrate in Trafalgar Square after an open-top bus parade through London. MBEs were awarded to the whole team, with OBEs for the captain and coach.

It was not the first time Fletcher, who was born in Harare in 1948, had upset Australia - he captained World Cup debutants Zimbabwe to a shock victory at Trent Bridge in 1983.

606: DEBATE

A systems manager by trade, Fletcher played a part in devising Zimbabwe's car registration system before becoming a full-time coach in his 40s.

He worked in South Africa with Western Province then led Glamorgan to the 1997 County Championship.

Despite his success, Fletcher was a virtual unknown when he applied for the England job in 1999, and legend has it one high-ranking official mistook him for Dav Whatmore, now Bangladesh boss.

Fletcher's reign spanned the captaincies of Hussain and Michael Vaughan - two very different personalities.

But the coach carried out a similar role in both eras, putting systems in place to improve efficiency, working as a specialist batting coach and letting the captain do the talking.

He helped to drive through policies such as central contracts and was ruthless in enforcing rest for top players, to the annoyance of their counties.

He championed consistency of selection and the Team England philosophy, which saw just 12 players used in the five Tests of 2005.

And Fletcher backed the occasional hunch, such as bringing Marcus Trescothick into the side in 2000 despite a mediocre county record, or reviving Craig White's Test career to great effect.

It seemed that he could do no wrong as England celebrated in 2005, but things turned sour over the next 12 months as they suffered a series defeat in Pakistan and struggled at home to Sri Lanka in both forms of the game.

TESTS UNDER FLETCHER
Duncan Fletcher
Won 42, lost 30, drawn 24
Series won 14, lost 7, tied 6
Highest score: 617 v Ind, Nottingham, 2002
Lowest score: 79 v Aus, Brisbane, 2002/03
Highest conceded: 751 - WI, Antigua, 2003/04
Lowest conceded: 47 - WI, Jamaica, 2003/04

Fletcher seemed always to have prioritised Test cricket over the one-day game, although England's 2003 World Cup squad would have been a challenger were it not for the boycott of Zimbabwe and subsequent forfeited points.

As they struggled in the ICC Champions Trophy last October, former Test star Geoffrey Boycott was the first to break cover and call for Fletcher to resign.

"Full marks to him for the way he made England's Test team competitive after the dark days of the 1990s," said Boycott.

"But, after a while, I believe a coach runs out of new ideas and the players get too comfortable and complacent with him.

"He almost becomes too familiar and the players stop listening."

That appeared the case during the Ashes tour of Australia as England were unable to take advantage of some limited opportunities early in the series and lost the plot towards the end.

They were undermined early on by some controversial selection decisions, made by Fletcher and tour captain Andrew Flintoff after the party had been decided.

They opted to revert to Geraint Jones as wicket-keeper in place of Chris Read and chose Ashley Giles ahead of Monty Panesar even though Giles had missed much of the last year through injury.

The choices made it look like Fletcher was trying to replicate England's blueprint for the success of 2005, without being able to adapt it to suit a changed environment.

That dogmatic approach has also been evident through the World Cup, as England stuck with an outmoded approach to top-order batting despite its continual failure.

Even though Fletcher received public backing from his superiors at the England and Wales Cricket Board following the Ashes whitewash, it became clear his time at the helm was running out.

It is not clear what lies ahead for Fletcher. Given his dislike of the media, he is extremely unlikely to follow Hussain in that direction.

He may look to his roots in systems management, with the added bonus of sporting credibility.

When England fans look back on Fletcher's reign in a few years time, his achievements will be obvious. After almost eight years as coach, though, it looked like time to go.

SEE ALSO
Fletcher to quit after World Cup
19 Apr 07 |  England
Fletcher's heir
19 Apr 07 |  England
Fletcher's England career
19 Apr 07 |  Cricket
Vaughan insists he will not quit
17 Apr 07 |  England
BBC World Cup coverage
21 Feb 07 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2007 schedule
20 Jul 05 |  Cricket


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