Mascarenhas aims big
Dimitri Mascarenhas is determined to take his latest chance to establish himself as an international cricketer by attempting to emulate the six-hitting antics of the world's leading players.
Kevin Pietersen this week highlighted the strides made by India in the one-day arena, and stressed his desire to improve his game during the Indian Premier League next month.
India’s ODI and Twenty20 side is packed with players seemingly capable of finding the boundary at will, but, in Mascarenhas, England have a player who is at least capable of following suit.
The 31-year-old demonstrated his prowess by hitting India's Yuvraj Singh for five successive sixes at the end of the innings at the Brit Oval two years ago.
He struck a further four sixes in a Twenty20 international against New Zealand at Auckland last winter, but faded out of the selectors’ thoughts last summer following the home one-day series defeat to New Zealand.
Back in the fold again for the five-match one-day series in the Caribbean, which follows Sunday's Twenty20 international at the Queen's Park Oval, Mascarenhas is hoping his ability to clear the ropes down the order can help him finally establish himself at the top level.
"At the death it's a little bit different because all you're looking to do is hit it out of the park, but all I want to do is hit sixes," said Mascarenhas.
"Different people do different things and there is a case of hitting the ball in the ground to hit fours and stay in. Everyone is different in the way they approach batting.
"I can't really comment on batting early in the innings because I mostly do it at the end, so it's easier for me to go in and do that.
"I'm in a no-lose situation. If I get out then it's because I have to go for runs. At the top of the order there is a bit more responsibility."
While Andrew Flintoff is England’s most prolific ODI six-hitter with 93, four of the India side - Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh - have cleared the rope more than 100 times.
India have an obvious advantage in that they play much more one-day cricket than England, and on pitches offering bowlers precious little assistance.
But their ability to go large has been identified as a key reason behind their 5-0 triumph in the aborted one-day series against England before Christmas.
Yuvraj has also hit 23 sixes in just 21 Twenty20 internationals and, as the only English player to feature in last year's Indian Premier League - for Rajasthan Royals, the eventual winners - Mascarenhas is convinced it is a major factor in their success.
"The flat wickets do help but most of the Indian guys played in all the 14 round games (in the IPL), which is a lot because in England you only get about eight," explained Mascarenhas.
"To play 14 in a row in a short space of time you get to know a lot about the game of Twenty20 and about yourself. You know how to go out and play in those situations because these guys must have been put in so many situations throughout the tournament and it can only be good for them.
"Like KP (Pietersen) said, the Indians are hitting more and more and more sixes. It might be down to the boundaries and the wickets, but they are still doing it."
Mascarenhas stressed: "I try and practise hitting sixes and I suppose there's a little bit of technique, but it's one of those things where some people can do it and some people can't.
"From being around the England guys on various tours, a lot of them do practise it. It has probably come from Twenty20 cricket because obviously in Twenty20 you need to hit as many boundaries as possible and you can pretty much go at it from ball one, and Twenty20 has obviously enhanced that a lot."
Unlike other England players, who are limited to a three-week stay in the IPL, or county players who have been given a month, Hampshire have given Mascarenhas permission to play for the whole tournament.
He will miss the first six weeks of the county season - Nic Pothas will lead Hampshire in his absence - and arrives in the Caribbean in good form after helping Otago reach the final of the domestic one-day competition in New Zealand and win their Twenty20 competition.
Mascarenhas also repeated his feat of hitting five successive sixes, this time against former New Zealand seamer Daryl Tuffey at the No 2 ground at Eden Park in Auckland, although he admits it was a much smaller venue than the Brit Oval.
England will be hoping he can conjure up a similar performance when they meet a President’s XI in a 50-over warm-up game tomorrow before finalising their team for Sunday's Twenty20 showdown.
All-rounder Paul Collingwood was unable to train during today’s practice session at St Mary’s High School after contracting a bacterial infection and is regarded as doubtful for the practice match.