Wives and Girlfriends to rescue England: Fletcher

Published: Monday, April 2, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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St.John's, Antigua:Under pressure England coach Duncan Fletcher today placed his faith in the Wives and Girlfriends (WAGs) of his players to lift the team's fortune in the crunch super eight league of the Cricket World Cup.

England scored an unconvincing 48-run win over qualifier Ireland in their first Super Eight league match and now Fletcher in sheer desperation is looking towards the women to prop up their men to do a good job in the next two key matches against Sri Lanka (April 4) and arch rival Australia (April 7).

''I think the presence of Wives and Girlfriends will help the player put in better performances during the rest of the World Cup Super Eights,'' he said.

The presence of the wives and girlfriends for large parts of the Ashes tour earlier this winter was cited as a major factor in England's humiliating 5-0 whitewash.

But coach Fletcher welcomed their arrival at England's Antigua base yesterday and believes they could provide an uplifting effect on a squad who are yet to impress so far in the tournament.

Fletcher justified the WAGs presence, saying ''We've done it on previous tours and on some of the tours when they've arrived we've put in some very solid performances.

''India was a good example a few years ago when we were losing 1-0 in the Test series and the wives arrived and we ended up drawing the series - they do help when they are arrive.'' Fletcher who has been under flak for team's poor showing feels that anything that can lift his side's performance in the World Cup is acceptable so why not have the WAGs if they can do the job.

''It's very, very important. We've done it on previous tours and we'll keep doing it,'' he told mediapersons here.

''It is a very tough tournament and they (WAGs) do help if they are around. That's why we bring them out. We do believe it is a good thing,'' he explained.

About his team's sub-standard win over Ireland, the coach was candid enough to admit his side did not play well enough. ''We just don't seem to be consistent in some areas. I don't think we played as well as we could have, there's no doubt about it. It still was an important win from our point of view, because we could have slipped up. But there are areas we can work on.'' ''We got a little complacent at times, and we need to make sure we don't get that complacent against better sides,'' Fletcher said.

About their next match against Sri Lanka, the coach admitted that it was a very crucial tie for his side. ''Sri Lanka is going to be a huge game for us.

''Having lost two points to New Zealand in the group match we have to make sure we win every game from here on. Victory in either, or both will consolidate England's position for making it to last four but back-to-back defeats, on the other hand, will see all flying back home early,'' Fletcher cautioned.

''Sri Lanka has got some world-class players. I think the wickets are very similar to Sri Lanka so they know how to play on those kind of wickets,'' he added.

''The most crucial thing is that we must play to our strengths with the players available to us,'' he said, implying that England are still - even at this crucial juncture of the biggest tournament of all - hankering after the men who did not make this trip; the likes of Marcus Trescothick, Simon Jones, Steve Harmison and Ashley Giles.

''Maybe we'll change a few things, though maybe that would be dangerous at this stage. But we must not ask players to do things that are alien to them, because that could really be disastrous.

''Players must play to their strengths,'' he added.

Sri Lanka had blanked England 5-0 last year in England and now, their attack is being spearheaded by the pace bowler Lasith Malinga.

''Malinga is a threat, he is unusual to any other bowler. Once you get out there and it hits you, it's completely different to the talk. When you're under pressure, the way you think is you always fall back on what you've done before,''he said.

He defended his players saying, ''As long as the top-order can get some big partnerships, that will be the important factor. We must be very careful we do not put too much pressure on them. They are experienced, they have been around a bit, but they've got to build partnerships. Once it's set they can accelerate from that platform.''


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