Cook pleased with options
England captain Alastair Cook has welcomed the selection dilemma he and team director Andy Flower face ahead of the third Test against India at Kolkata, which starts tomorrow.
Steven Finn’s return to fitness from a thigh injury means Cook and Flower must decide whether to include the tall Middlesex paceman, who bowled outstandingly in England’s one-day international series whitewash at the hands of the same opponents just over a year ago.
Batsman Ian Bell is also available, having missed the second Test to visit his newly-born first child Joseph.
With the four-match series finely poised at 1-1, Cook was unsurprisingly giving very little away at his pre-match press conference but spoke of Finn in glowing terms.
“On Steven Finn’s injury, it’s great he’s now fully fit. He adds competition to the squad, he’s a fine bowler and it’s great to have him available for selection,” Cook said.
“It’s disappointing he’s missed two games but it’s great that he’s back and we’ve got some tough selection meetings ahead of us. As a captain and as a coach, that’s what you want. You want people pushing for places.”
Cook believes Finn could give England something different, adding: “He’s got a little bit more pace than the other guys and he bowled well here on the sub-continent in the one-dayers.”
If Finn comes into a four-man attack featuring spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, Stuart Broad is most likely to make way given he is wicketless in the series. However, Cook had words of encouragement for his vice-captain.
“They’ve been tough wickets for seamers,” he said. “I think the majority of wickets have fallen to the spinners, and he’s been slightly unlucky in that he hasn’t been fully fit with some illnesses.
“It’s been a tough couple of games, but I’m very glad he’s English. I’m glad he’s in this squad. He’s a fantastic player and he’s put in fantastic performances this year and over his career.”
Like Broad with the ball, Jonathan Trott has struggled with the bat; England’s number three has made just 17 runs in three series innings, reducing his Test average to a still impressive 48.
“I think he averages 50 in Test cricket,” Cook added. “I think he’s scored 700 runs this year alone, and yet everyone is talking about him not having a great year. He’s not having the year he’d probably like to have, but you can’t write off people with the quality like that.”
As well as his previously prolific record, Trott is renowned for a near addiction to batting - in the nets, as well as in the middle.
“I’ve seen him practise; I’ve seen how determined he is,” Cook continued. “You have to stay tough, and you have to stay true to the way you play. The runs will come. We know that quality players do score runs, and he is a quality player.”
Cook, who like Kevin Pietersen hit his 22nd Test ton in the 10-wicket win at Mumbai where Swann and Panesar combined for 19 wickets, believes all England’s selected batsmen can prosper in Kolkata.
“We’ve had some good runs and we’ve had some people who have struggled to score some runs, but the beauty of a good side is that you can dovetail,” he said.
“I hope the guys who haven’t had the luck you need at the start of an innings can have it this week and put in a match-winning performance. If we’re going to win another game, we’ll need those outstanding performances. We had four of them in the last game and we managed to win. We didn’t do that in Ahmedabad.”
Winning by such a margin at the Wankhede Stadium has “given us a lot of confidence,” Cook added. “It’s given us some belief that what we’re doing is the right stuff, but that doesn’t mean it’ll count for anything when it comes to this game.”
Cook registered hundreds at Ahmedabad and Mumbai, taking him to four in as many Tests as captain, but is most interested in victory at Eden Gardens.
“All the training we’re doing, all the practising we’re doing against spin, is the right stuff,” Cook concluded.
“We hope, this week, we can continue that improvement. We’re going to need to if we’re going to win. We’re going to have to have some other outstanding performances, like we did in Mumbai. I don’t think you can ever be satisfied.”