Dravid not taking task lightly
Rahul Dravid has dismissed suggestions that facing England is an easy start to India’s ICC Champions Trophy campaign.
England are viewed as outsiders for a tournament in which they were finalists two years ago, having experienced a torrid time in limited-overs contests since.
Prior to back-to-back wins over Pakistan last month they had lost 17 of their previous 21 completed matches, including five defeats to India here earlier this year.
However, Dravid believes any country could be crowned champions of the 'mini-World Cup' in Mumbai on November 5 - and that includes Andrew Flintoff’s men.
“I don’t think anyone would dare call England a soft team because it would be a big mistake to do so,” Dravid said.
“They have some good match-winners, really good players, and we will not take them lightly.
“There are no soft starts in an eight-team competition, any of these eight teams can go on to win this tournament and I mean any of them.
“In six months’ time the same will apply and any one could go on to win the World Cup.”
Things have not gone so well for India recently compared to their imperious early 2006 form, which included beating England 5-1.
“One-day cricket is such that just because you won a tournament a few months ago it doesn’t mean you are just going to turn up and win the next game,” Dravid added.
“We came back from some very difficult positions to win that series but it will not mean too much when the game starts.”
Dravid is also wary of the influence the return of opposite number Flintoff will have.
Flintoff, who will win his 100th cap at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, was man of the drawn Test series here back in March.
“He played a huge part in the Ashes, which was well-documented, but what wasn’t given as much coverage was the impact he had in India,” said Dravid.
“His performances both with bat and ball - and his captaincy - were very good.
“He is an exciting cricketer for the world to watch and it is always nice to see someone like Freddie do well - except against India.”
India are set to field the two frontline spinners, Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar, who caused England so many problems on last winter’s tour.
They also have Sachin Tendulkar, the most productive batsman in the history of one-day international cricket, back. The 33-year-old was missing with a shoulder injury the last time the teams met.
“It is great to have Sachin back and in good form,” added Dravid, referring to Tendulkar’s recent unbeaten 141 against West Indies, his 40th limited-overs hundred.
“A quality player like him can make a big difference.
“If we can hit the ground running we will be a force to be reckoned with in this tournament, especially playing at home.
“You always want to play in front of your own crowds. There might be a certain amount of pressure playing at home but it is also exciting.”