Plenty to play for - Flower
Team director Andy Flower believes England still have much to gain from their limited-overs tour of India.
A five-wicket defeat in Mohali on Thursday left the tourists 3-0 down with two matches to play and they face a battle to avoid a repeat of the 5-0 whitewash they suffered in India three years ago.
Flower could be excused for being downbeat in such circumstances, yet he is determined to ensure his side make the most of the remainder of their time on the sub-continent.
“We came out here to win the series, and unfortunately after three games the series is over as a contest,” he said.
“The shift now goes towards maximising our learning and development from the rest of the series, and we will be pursuing those twin goals of learning and winning in the next two one-dayers.”
Asked whether that might mean introducing players so far unused in an unchanged team, Flower said: “I think we should do that, yes - not necessarily wholesale changes, but it is a great opportunity to get learning into our younger players especially.
“Sub-continent one-day cricket is an area, and we can’t hide from this fact, that we’ve under-performed in over the years.
“The most recent example was the World Cup. There is a lot of cricket to be played out here, and we need to learn as quickly as possible, so getting some exposure into some of our young, talented players that are going to be playing international cricket in the future would be a sensible option.”
Uncapped pace bowler Stuart Meaker and more experienced batsman Ian Bell are therefore among those who may have a belated opportunity on this tour.
If so, Flower insists they will be playing in a team whose spirit is undimmed by recent disappointments.
“The mood of the camp is excellent, probably surprisingly good considering we’ve just lost the series,” he said.
“This group of players and the Test squad have performed outstandingly well over quite a long period of time.
“We’ve had a little setback here. But we aren’t naive enough to think you can win every game and every series you go into, even though that is what you are attempting to do.”
Flower accepts England, who beat India 3-0 at home just last month, have been below their best in this rematch.
“We haven’t played well out here,” he said. “We intend to do something about that.
“The Indian team are a more confident unit out here. They struggled to adapt to our conditions, and I think at the moment we have been a little slow to adapt to theirs.
“It is your job to do that as quickly as possible. We haven’t, and therefore we’ve lost this series.”
The criticism, from certain quarters, of Jonathan Trott, however, has left Flower perplexed.
Trott underpinned England’s total of 298 for four in Mohali with 98 not out from 116 balls, only to once again find his scoring rate the topic of discussion.
Flower takes issue with that, comparing Trott’s methods and effectiveness with Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene, who was lauded for a World Cup final century which kept his team in with a chance against eventual winners India in Mumbai five months ago.
“You say that his strike rate is low,” said Flower. “Is his strike rate any lower than Mahela Jayawardene’s in one-day cricket? Check those stats.”
Trott has the best ODI average of any England player in history to boot.
“Since he started playing one-day cricket for England, he has been very consistent - and that consistency has helped us score bigger totals,” said Flower.
“I think, if anything, some of the players around him have under-performed with the bat, and I think he’s playing good cricket. Until a better player comes along, Jonathan Trott will play.”