The younger lot has impressed him in the ODI series and now, new India coach Duncan Fletcher says, he cannot wait to work with the seniors in the Tests against West Indies as more than the players, it is he who would learn from the experience.
“The impact is going to be huge. It’s a simple fact. More than anybody else, it’s me who would learn. I may contribute in a few areas but they have a wealth of experience and it would be interesting,” Fletcher said after the ODI series, which concluded yesterday with India winning 3-2 after losses in the fourth and fifth match.
India’s senior players such as regular skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will return to the side for the Tests even though the side would still be without stars like Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan due to varied reasons.
Looking back at the series, Fletcher said he wants youngsters to have a longer run than a mere four-five games.
“Five games are not enough of a chance to judge a player and his ability. Playing for India is a huge pressure and with so many talents around, you are given very few chances.
“They then put a lot of pressure on themselves and with the technique changes and affects performance,” said Fletcher, trying to put in perspective a few disappointing performances from the series.
Men such as openers Parthiv Patel, Shikhar Dhawan, S Badrinath, Yusuf Pathan and even stand-in captain Suresh Raina had an average series and the heads of a few would certainly be on the chopping block of selectors.
“You need a long run to learn ODI cricket. Great batsmen say that it takes 50 ODIs to learn the game. Most of these guys have played just three-four games,” Fletcher said.
“So what they learn from this experience is going to be the key for their development.”
Fletcher was equally lavish in his praise of his bowlers and was confident they would hold up well to the rigours of the three-match Test series starting Monday.
“Having played so much of World Cup and then IPL it is very difficult to say but I feel they should be able to bowl long spells. I haven’t seen any forced action and it makes you feel they will last,” he said.
“Ishant, in one particular spell, was very encouraging and bowled with good pace, line and length and rhythm. Munaf and PK (Praveen Kumar) had good spells.
“Among spinners, Mishra pulled us back regularly. Ashwin bowled very well. Harbhajan put up a good performance,” he added.
Fletcher, in his first series with the Indian team, lavished praise on stand-in skipper Suresh Raina.
“It’s not easy when you are trying to develop your game, establish yourself, and you also have to think about 10-14 other young players. It’s difficult to move away. Captaincy at any level is a difficult job; your mind can wander from your game to the game of your team.
“You need to be a little bit careful. Sometimes you have a bad patch and on other occasions you put your shots together and play a match-winning innings.”
Despite Raina’s poor run with the bat - 82 runs from five matches at an average of 20.50- Fletcher found everything positive about the young captain.
“At 24, captaining India, I don’t think there is any pressure on an individual (cricketer) bigger than that. He (Raina) is still developing but I like that he got along with other individuals on and off the field.
“He put his head on the block (with the decisions), took criticism yet held his head high. He didn’t let it drop. His body language was positive,” he said.
“He could be developing into a very good captain in the future.”
Similarly, Fletcher was effusive in his praise of Virat Kohli, who played a pleasing innings of 94 in the fifth ODI yesterday.
“He is a very good player; he is the future of Indian cricket. He went through a period when he was hard on himself and didn’t get runs. Today he showed that under pressure he could apply his mind on the job and his innings was outstanding.”
Fletcher described the loss in the final two one-day games as loss of concentration on the part of his team.
“I would like to think it as a 4-2 result in our favour, including the Twenty20 game. Sometimes when you win the series, it becomes very difficult to concentrate,” he explained.
Fletcher refused to make any statement on the fitness of Munaf Patel, only stating that the tall, gangly medium-fast bowler would be fit for the first Test.