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July 04 2020
Wrong to judge rookies on just five games: Fletcher
17 June 2011

It is well documented how South African great Jacques Kallis took 15 to 20 one-day internationals before he could settle down and cement a place in the national team. From there, the all-rounder went on to become one of the greatest batsmen of our times. "I've heard of good batsmen who've taken at least 50 one-day internationals to truly understand this format. It's not very easy," says India coach Duncan Fletcher. 

If Jacques Kallis could take 20 one-dayers to find his feet, the 'good' batsmen that Fletcher talks about took around 50 one-dayers to settle, how can just five one-dayers be enough to judge a young Indian batsman? Fletcher feels "five games are not a fair chance to judge a player's ability. They're just not enough." 

And this, before we go any further, is not just about players who failed to make a mark in the series against the West Indies. As Fletcher puts it, this is also about those who did well and helped India clinch the series but may still not have discovered their true potential. For young cricketers who make the cut and start playing international cricket, the learning begins all over again. "When you start playing international cricket, there's a lot of pressure," says the coach. This is pressure of different kinds — of facing the opposition, of living up to the occasion, of making the most of the chance available, of self-inflicted pressure, batting pressure, bowling pressure. 

Handling pressure is what finally makes a cricketer. And five one-dayers, Fletcher feels, are way too less to even identify what pressure actually means. "Your technique (as a batsman or a bowler) changes when you are playing under pressure. It can alter performances and therefore, you cannot see the true potential of a player," he says. 

The coach doesn't take any names, either to identify or talk about any individual who has played in this series and how he has dealt with the whole 'pressure-situation'. That, he says, is between him and his team. But what Fletcher is ready to reveal is that if a cricketer has been spotted with the right kind of talent and ability to play the game at a good level, he should be persisted with until that player finds himself comfortably placed in 'high-pressure' circumstances and can reveal his true potential in those situations. "The boys have to learn to understand one-day cricket and that will happen only when they're out there playing ODIs," says Fletcher. 

Suresh Raina, the stand-in skipper for this series, is a fine example. Captaincy, Fletcher feels, taught Raina a new dimension to the format that wasn't just about his own batting, bowling or fielding but handling an entire team. If he didn't get his runs in the Caribbean or maybe was trying to be a little aggressive down the order and failed, it was a new process for him to begin with. 

"Sometimes as captain, your thought process is different. You end up thinking about many things when you're on the field and not just about your own game," says Fletcher, adding that he thinks "Raina has done a tremendous job." 

The captain and coach have been noting little things — Ishant Sharma's "encouraging spell" on Thursday for instance, or even Amit Mishra's leg-spin. Not every individual is blessed with that special ability to express himself from the word go. Virat Kohli is special because he has taken little time to grab opportunities that came his way. That, however, should not mean that a cricketer who may need a few more matches to settle down and show the same temperament as Kohli is any less talented. "It is important to give them a fair chance to express themselves on the field," says Fletcher. 

 

 

 

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