Young guns fire Cook's hopes
Alastair Cook can see the steel in England’s eyes as his young one-day team seek to buck the trend in India.
England are bidding, in five ODIs this month, to follow up a 3-0 home win over the world champions, having also managed to snatch a World Cup tie in Bangalore in March against a team featuring the Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan.
Those three mighty talents are missing from the current India line-up because of injury, yet England remain mindful of well-documented difficulties on previous limited-overs trips to this country.
The overall scoreline from the last two tours stands at 10-1 in the hosts’ favour, while England's solitary one-day series triumph in India came as far back as 1984/85.
Cook, a winning captain in both his one-day campaigns since taking over permanently from Andrew Strauss early this summer, will dwell on neither past success nor failure as an accurate barometer of England’s chances.
What he is sure of, though, is that the players at his disposal - even in the absence of the rested James Anderson and the injured Stuart Broad and Eoin Morgan - are up to the challenge.
“It’s great to see the enthusiasm the youngsters bring,” he said after today’s first training session of a four-week trip which will be a step into the unknown for several emerging cricketers.
“A lot are on their first England tours - a very special occasion for them.”
Of those with slightly more experience, the need to deputise effectively for pace bowlers Anderson and Broad in particular is obvious.
“Tim Bresnan will now be the leader of our attack, and I think he’s looking forward to that challenge,” Cook added.
“Jade Dernbach and Steven Finn will have to step up as well, and I can see in everyone’s eyes how much they are looking forward to this opportunity and to having to stand up and be counted.”
Cook rules out the relevance of England’s evident superiority over India in the summer - preferring to concentrate on the here, the now and the imminent future.
He said: “I don’t see any relation between what happened in England and what’s going to happen out here. We are expecting a battle, predominantly on slow wickets.
“India are historically very strong at home and we have an extremely tough challenge on our hands, but one I think we can cope with.
“It’s a great opportunity for an England side to play one-day cricket in India - play the world champions in their backyard.
“To play in front of these huge crowds here as an English side is very special. We’re certainly looking forward to getting our teeth stuck into this tour.”
England are a little wiser, as of this morning, about what lies immediately ahead - after the uncertainty about their two warm-up matches in Hyderabad was cleared up.
This Saturday and next Tuesday England will play a Hyderabad Cricket Association XI at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in day-night fixtures - under the latest International Cricket Council ODI rules.
That means two new balls, one at each end, and both batting and bowling powerplays to be taken between the 16th and 40th overs of the innings.
Cook acknowledges the need to come to terms quickly with the innovations.
“It is learn-as-we-go, how the new rules affect things - with two new balls and the powerplay changes,” he said. “That’s why these two warm-up games will be so good for us.
“These are things we’re going to have to deal with, and whichever side can adapt quickest will be at an advantage.
“It is quite unheard-of, as a one-day preparation period, to have 10 days. Normally, you come straight from a Test series, so to have that time is fantastic.”