Cook content with selection headache
Alastair Cook is delighted to have tricky selection issues for England’s one-day series with India, but knows such competition does not guarantee victories.
Cook and team director Andy Flower have an impressive 15-man squad to choose from, many of whom have demonstrated fine form during the two warm-up matches.
Jonny Bairstow’s blistering unbeaten century and Scott Borthwick’s five-wicket haul in Tuesday’s second win over a Hyderabad Cricket Association XI increased their claims to play in tomorrow’s first ODI at Hyderabad.
It is up to Cook and Flower who makes the XI at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium but, once that is decided, the captain will not take anything for granted.
“It’s a great headache to have isn’t it?” Cook told ecb.co.uk.
“Let’s be honest, it’s one you always want to have, to be able to leave out good players, it shows a good side. And certainly when we get a few more players back from injury as well, you’re then thinking ‘which players do you leave out?’.
“It becomes very tough but that as an overall thing for an England side, and certainly being the captain of the side, it’s such an encouraging place to be in.
“We’ve always said you need a big squad, people to be able to fit in, fit out, injuries happen and to cover all bases.
“We’re certainly getting there at the moment, just with this squad of players. So it’s very encouraging signs; it doesn’t count for anything but it’s nice to have those selection headaches.”
England selector Ashley Giles shares Cook’s optimism, although the Warwickshire director of cricket agrees having strength in depth is not an end in itself.
“As selectors we’ve got really good options at the moment,” he said.
“It’s nice to have that strength in depth and I suppose it keeps everyone on their toes, but it’s not about that. It’s about having a high-quality side so, if you get situations where you get injuries or losses of form, you have guys ready to step in.
“And I guess that’s our responsibility as county coaches as well, to prepare players as well as we can to play international cricket. Of course it’s to win trophies for our counties but we should be in the game of producing future England stars as well.”
Alongside Bairstow and Borthwick, uncapped Stuart Meaker plus Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn and Chris Woakes - who earned their ODI debuts this year - make up a youthful touring party.
That freshness, no doubt combined with England’s 3-0 NatWest series win over India last month, has Cook optimistic about the tourists’ prospects in this five-match series.
“We are confident. I think we’ve got nothing to fear as a young side,” he added. “We know how tough a challenge it is, of course. But it’s one thing we shouldn’t be scared of, playing India in India.
“The crowds are amazing, the people love cricket out here. It’s just a great place to go and show our skills.
“If we can adapt to this challenge, and there have certainly been some encouraging signs this week, it’ll certainly keep us moving on an upward curve if we can deliver some good results. We know how hard it’s going to be but I’m very confident the players can win.”
Former spinner Giles, who helped England come from 3-1 down to draw the 2001-02 one-day series in India 3-3, has every confidence in the tourists’ slow-bowling options on this trip.
“I like Borthwick,” he added. “I’ve seen him a lot, playing against him - Warwickshire v Durham - he’s got great energy, loves his cricket, (is) adaptable, does everything, can bat as well, fields and leg-spinners are hard to come by, he’s got decent control for a leg-spinner.
“His five-for the other day will give him confidence, will give him a real boost. (Samit) Patel gives you good all-round options and (Graeme) Swann’s one of the best bowlers in the world. It’s a nice make-up, I think, to go into a series with.”
India have left out experienced spinner Harbhajan Singh for the first two ODIs and are also without injured stars Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel.
Like Cook, that leaves Mahendra Singh Dhoni with several inexperienced players, including spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and the uncapped Rahul Sharma, but the captain believes those available will cope.
“The performance of the batsmen was very impressive in England, especially in the ODI series,” Dhoni told a press conference.
“We have a different set of bowlers, who will get an opportunity in home conditions to show what kind of talent they have.
“Most of them have IPL experience, so they have a fair idea of what needs to be done when the batsman is going after them.
“It’s very difficult to replace the senior players, but most of the youngsters are very talented.”