London: Former England captain Alec Stewart on Tuesday batted for under-fire coach Duncan Fletcher, saying the Zimbabwean cannot be held responsible for India`s pathetic show in England since a coach can only guide and execution on the field was players` job.
Stewart`s comments came after Ravi Shastri was appointed the Director of Indian cricket team and Fletcher`s support staff - fielding coach Trevor Penney and bowling coach Joe Dawes - were given time off by the BCCI.
"Duncan is the best coach I have worked under. He was England coach when I was finishing my playing career. He is a good coach and I think he has been good for India. Fletcher cannot bat for the Indian batsmen. He can pass all the knowledge he has gained but the batsmen hold the bat and they make decisions on the field," Stewart argued.
"Gautam Gambhir`s run-out before lunch is not Fletcher`s fault. Chasing wide balls, playing wrong lines and getting out is not Fletcher`s fault. Coaches coach and prepare the players. Players prepare and perform. And the Indian players haven`t performed," Stewart said.
When asked where the Indian team has gone wrong in the last three Tests after winning at Lord`s by 95 runs, Stewart replied, "As good as India were at Lord`s in conditions tailor made for England, the home side pressed the self destruct button themselves in that match. And India were very good in taking advantage of that. Since then England have been brilliant as the roles were reversed."
"Look, I am a huge fan of Virat Kohli. And I really admire Cheteshwar Pujara. They have other good batsmen as well, someone like Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane. But I haven`t seen the application or their technical aspect of the game to cope with the moving ball and that has what cost India," he said.
Indeed Kohli and Pujara have been the centre of India`s failures, averaging 13.40 and 22.20 in the five Tests. If the practice games are counted too, Kohli hasn`t even scored a half-century on tour.
Rohit Sharma hasn`t either but he didn`t play as many games. Vijay and Rahane got into early form but they were unable to cope with the pressure of James Anderson and Stuart Broad once the two strike-bowlers found their rhythm.
"India`s bowling has been quite decent. Upfront they missed Ishant Sharma when he was injured. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is an English-type of bowler but the itinerary of five Tests meant that he had to do the majority work and eventually he got tired. So it comes down to the Indian batsmen," said Stewart.
"They have made mistakes and haven`t applied themselves. They haven`t looked to improve against the moving ball. And when you get small totals on the board, good luck to the bowlers because they know they have to bowl the opposition out for a par-score.
"If you gamble to take wickets you might bowl too many bad balls and that`s what has happened. The Indian batting is highly talented and must be asked why they haven`t been able to face the likes of Anderson and Broad," he added.
Kohli and Pujara struggled outside the off-stump, especially the former who was made a bunny by Anderson in this series. Serious technical flaws crept into the both batsmen?s games and they were unable to get away from them. It is at this juncture that Fletcher`s contribution can be questioned.
"India are the power house of world cricket. Financially they run the game but they look at more of the shorter versions of the game instead of trying to be number one in all forms of the game and maintaining that," said Stewart.
"Five test matches in England is a big thing for both sides but India have got to be competitive not just in home conditions. They have to look outside and test themselves in Australia, England and South Africa, and get used to the moving and bouncing ball.
"Because the Indian team consists of such talented players that it won`t take too long to adjust. If they only do it only now and then it makes difficult for those players to perform," he signed off.