|Player:||DAG Fletcher, MS Panesar, AF Giles, GO Jones, CMW Read, AC Gilchrist, MJ Clarke, MEK Hussey|
DateLine: 20th December 2006
Duncan Fletcher has been forced to defend his dual role as England coach and selector as the media searches for a scapegoat to blame for the disastrous Ashes campaign.
With Australia leading the series 2-0 and well on top in the third Test at the WACA ground in Perth, Fletcher has come under attack in England and Australia for everything from poor preparation to ignoring form at the selection table and choosing favourites instead.
The two main selection issues were omitting Monty Panesar for the first two Tests for Ashley Giles and preferring wicketkeeper Geraint Jones to Chris Read because of Jones' superior batting. It hasn't helped Fletcher that when Panesar got his chance here, he was England's most dangerous bowler taking eight wickets for the match, and that Jones has failed each time he's been at the crease.
Fletcher has gone from national hero to the most maligned man in English cricket in the space of just 18 months and there is every chance he will be one of the casualties of the tour. Widely hailed as a coaching mastermind when England regained the Ashes in the summer of 2005, the Zimbabwean has been equally widely blamed for losing them in Australia. So it was no surprise that when Fletcher finally made himself available to speak to the media, questions quickly turned to his position within the England set-up.
Fletcher showed no emotion as he defended his dual role as coach and selector. "I've got a job to do," he said. "The rest of this match is very important and then we've got to go on to the fourth and fifth Tests."
He said he stood by all his selections so far on the tour and said there was no reason why he, as coach, shouldn't also be a selector. "From my point of view we've been quite comfortable with who we've picked," Fletcher said. "I've been a selector for seven years and people forget we've lost one Test series in 11 with this system so it must have proved pretty successful."
Whether Fletcher's confidence is well founded is another matter. After Adam Gilchrist's brutal assault on the English bowlers on Saturday, combined with centuries from Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey, English newspapers launched a savage attack. The Sunday Times headlined its double page spread: "High Price For Fletcher Folly", with Panesar's omission from the first two Tests included in a list of "ten ways in which England got it wrong".