India might be looking more at home in the nets, now that they are back to the format that seemingly suits them best, but massive uncertainty remains what with the radical changes to the coaching staff. From MS Dhoni’s press conference ahead of the first ODI, it sounded like the changes might have been imposed. Dhoni was not his usual composed self, but he did make two things clear: Duncan Fletcher is going nowhere, and he feels bad for Trevor Penney and Joe Dawes, who have been sent on “leave”. He welcomed Ravi Shastri, but refused to say if he had been consulted before the changes were made.
When asked, however, if he felt bad for Fletcher, and if he sees him going to Australia, Dhoni’s response was emphatic. “Definitely he will lead us into the World Cup,” Dhoni said. “Also he is still the boss. We have Ravi who will look into everything, but Duncan Fletcher is the boss. It’s not as if his powers or his position have been curtailed. I don’t know what you feel from outside, but still operations remain the same. We have a few other support staff who come into the dressing room, but overall the operation remains the same.”
What about the decision to bring in new support staff and the timing of it, then? “Some things just [happen] this way,” Dhoni said. “It’s a bit tough on Trevor [fielding coach] and Joey [bowling coach], I know. Especially when fielders drop catches and the fielding coach has to miss the series.
“But let’s hope for the best. We are welcoming the new guys because that is very important. They will be part of the dressing-room family as of now. We will have to give them some time to adjust to how we operate, and see what kind of input they bring to the table.”
On Diwali day in 2009, no such concern was shown for Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh, the bowling and fielding coaches who were sacked unceremoniously.
Dhoni did suggest the new team director, Shastri, will be good for the side. “He is here to oversee the operations,” Dhoni said. “From the outside, what he feels and everything. It’s good to have him. The reason being he is a very proud India cricketer, and at the same time very positive. He believes a lot in fighting and having the right instincts, going over and giving his 100%. It is obviously good to have him. He also speaks the same language, and can interact a lot with the players. Same is the case with other people, so it is good to have them.”
Shastri was pretty active on his first day on the field as a team director. He had had one formal team meeting already, and a few one-on-one chats. On Sunday, he had a long and animated chat with Dhoni and Flecther next to the pitch. Both Shastri and Fletcher kept twirling their right wrist, as a legspinner would. It seemed to be a debate around Karn Sharma. Dhoni, as usual, gave away little through facial reaction or hand gestures.
Later, during the nets session, Shastri had a point to make to Shikhar Dhawan, who has had an ordinary Test series but will be back as ODI opener. Fletcher immediately joined in, and the two went away to have another long discussion. After Dhawan was done with his stint, Shastri had another chat with him. He did the same with Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina. Bharat Arun slipped into Dawes’ role, R Sridhar into Penney’s, and Sanjay Bangar mostly gave throwdowns to the batsmen.