Opening role up for grabs - Cook

India England

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Captain Alastair Cook spoke the media on the eve of England's tour to India

Alastair Cook says the identity of his opening partner for the India Tests is still to be decided.

Andrew Strauss’ retirement in August not only led to Cook being appointed Test captain but also left a gap at the top of the batting order.

Among the 17-man Test squad to tour India, England have named a specialist opener in Joe Root and a batsman with significant top-order experience in Nick Compton while number three Jonathan Trott could be another option.

With three warm-up games before the four-Test rubber begins on November 15 in Ahmedabad, Cook insists there is time for one of the uncapped duo of Root and Compton or another batsman to stake a claim.

“We have had some discussions and clearly the position is still up for grabs,” stressed Cook, speaking at Lord’s before England leave tomorrow for a three-day training camp at the ICC Global Cricket Academy in Dubai.

Alastair Cook

An upbeat Alastair Cook said: “Clearly it’s very exciting times for me. To be leading England for the first time as Test captain is a huge honour for me."

Whoever opens with Cook, the 27-year-old admitted it will be strange that it is not Strauss.

“When I first heard about his retirement that’s the first thing that crossed my mind, the walking out without him to open the batting,” Cook said.

“We’ve done it for six years pretty much. I think we opened 70 times together. It’s a lot of times. So it will be slightly strange not walking out with him. It gives a great opportunity for another guy to come in and make a claim to start their England career.”

Once England arrive in India on Thursday week, their first tour match will be in Mumbai versus an India A side set to be without a frontline spinner after none was named in today’s squad.

Cook, who worked hard against spin in the United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka last winter like his team-mates, is unconcerned by India A’s selection.

“We don’t have any right to say who they can pick in their side,” he observed. “We know how important playing spin is and we did struggle in the UAE.

“I think the amount of work that we did towards the latter part of that tour and the work we did in Sri Lanka, we need to get as close to that point as we can as soon as we can on the tour and build from there because we know how important playing spin is and how important first-innings runs are.”

Playing spin is just one element of what Cook knows will be a challenging trip, having made his Test debut at Nagpur in March 2006.

The left-hander is aware that history is against England, who have not won a Test series in India since 1984-85, but he is pleased the tour is about to begin.

“Clearly it’s very exciting times for me,” he said. “To be leading England for the first time as Test captain is a huge honour for me. It’s been two months since the announcement so it’s great to finally get going.

“I just need to be true to myself - I can’t pretend to be Andrew Strauss. He was a great leader and he did some fantastic things for the side but it is a different side now.

“We have a real tough challenge ahead of us. I think it’s been almost 30 years since we have won in India so that shows the challenge ahead, but I’m very confident in this squad that we can go out there and do something very special.”

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