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Bristol: Aug 24, 2014
England skipper Alastair Cook started playing mind games as he said that a change of format will certainly help the Indian team terming them favourites in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series starting in Bristol on Monday. “A change of format will obviously do them good. It’s not quite the same ground-hog day for them probably,” the sarcasm in Cook’s statement was not lost as he referred to India’s woeful show in the last three Tests of the recently concluded series.
“We’ve got to remember they’re world champions at 50-overs, so they obviously know what they’re doing and will probably go into this as favourites. But if we play well, we’re hard to beat in our conditions,” Cook said on the eve of the first one-dayer. India lost the five-match Test series 3-1 in embarrassing fashion after losing by huge margins in the last three Tests at Southampton, Manchester and the Oval. This was despite taking a 1-0 lead in the series at the Lord’s. But the change in format should give them more confidence, having completed a 95-run win over Middlesex in the single warm-up game at Lord’s on Friday.
Meanwhile, for England, the World Cup in Australia-New Zealand comes into focus as this is their last engagement at home before the quadrennial tournament.
“It depends on how the next few months go,” said Cook, referring to that event in February-March 2015. “Over the last few World Cups, we haven’t performed at our best. We’ve had key personnel changes right at the end, major decisions leading into World Cups. We want to be a bit more consistent in that. We’ve got a good chance because of the conditions we’ll be playing in. It’s not sub-continental conditions, where we find it hard because we don’t play so much there. It’s quite similar to English conditions. So I think we’ve got a very good chance,” the confident skipper said.
English selectors have made changes according to their plans for that tournament, dropping Ravi Bopara and bringing in Alex Hales in his place. Steve Finn also comes in for Stuart Broad who will be having his long-pending knee surgery.
“Every time you get to play for England, there’s a chance to make a place for yourself,” said Cook. “I think you saw a huge amount of development in those guys behind James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the Test team. They’ll be pushing hard to be the first name on the team sheet and there will be some quality players we’ll leave out of this side. We’ll just have to check on the guys who played Twenty20 yesterday (in the T20 Blast finals) but they seem to be all right.”
With Hales coming in, it is expected that there will be a new opening partnership for England, with Cook separated from Ian Bell. This was more or less confirmed before the match. “He’ll bat at No 3, yes,” Cook confirmed about Bell. “So there is a different role for Ian to play. But Ian is a world-class player. So I have no doubts that he can do that. Also if we want to change it back to the top of the order as our partnership has been a good one over the last couple of years.”
“It’s nice to know we’ve got different options, and we’ll look at them over the next few months. So that when we come to the World Cup, we’re very clear on what we think our best side will be,” he added, referring to Hales inclusion in the squad. That point might also relieve some pressure off Cook who has been criticized in certain quarters for a poor strike-rate in the limited-overs format.
“I think my strike rate, since I’ve come back into the side, has been good. There are always question marks. There’s no point me worrying about it anymore. I don’t try to prove anyone wrong or right; I just try to do the best with my ability, and that doesn’t change,” he said.
“As a ODI side, over the last three-and-a-half years, we got to the final of the Champions Trophy, became the number one side – I know, only for a short period – and we’ve done some good stuff. There are always going to be people moaning but it is what it is,” Cook signed off.
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