Speaking on Sky Sports Cricket’s show, ‘The Fletcher Years’, former England head coach Duncan Fletcher put forward his opinion that England should have been the best side in the world by a distance before he took over in 1999.
The 1990s is widely remembered as one of England’s worst eras as a cricket team. Throughout the decade, they won just seven Test series, with Australia confirming their dominance, going the whole 10 years with the urn in their possession.
Shortly after Fletcher took over, a series defeat to New Zealand saw England slump to the bottom of the world Test rankings, with the head coach baffled at how the team had sunk so low. “You know what was strange for me, and I’ve often thought about this,” he said. “You know in the Nineties? England should have been No.1 in the world, easily.”
The reason, as he saw it, was simply down to personnel, with England possessing a number of hugely talented cricketers. “You know the cricketers they had here? They had great all-rounders, Chalky [Craig] White, Chris Lewis,” he said. “And the [Graham] Thorpes and the [Mark] Ramprakashes, the [Graeme] Hicks. You look at all this talent, young too. [Darren] Gough, [Andy] Caddick, they were fantastic cricketers. It was incredible talent.”
Ramprakash and Hick would end their careers as unfulfilled ‘what ifs’, but Thorpe and White in particular were two who enjoyed a resurgence under Fletcher. Thorpe averaged 39 in the 1990s and 53 in the 2000s, while White enjoyed a remarkable comeback to play a key role in a landmark Test series win over West Indies. “I just looked at it and said this can only be one thing, it’s management,” Fletcher said. “Managing these players in the correct manner and giving them confidence. When you had a look at how they left Graeme Hick out, and Ramprakash messed around in selection. And that’s the thing we introduced, I tried to get Nasser to say, let’s make it so it’s harder to get out of the side than to get in the side.”
While Fletcher’s tenure ended unhappily, with England performing poorly at the 2007 World Cup and beaten 5-0 in the 2006/07 Ashes, the decade on the whole was a much more positive one, with the Ashes regained in 2005, and other impressive results besides.
He endured a tense relations with Andrew Flintoff, captain for the latter part of his tenure. But Flintoff has since spoken of Fletcher’s impact on English cricket.
“My relationship with Duncan was well-documented,” Flintoff said in the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast. “To say he did nothing for English cricket is a joke. He was there when we won the Ashes, he was there all through the build-up.”
Reaching No.1 would have to wait until 2011, however.