Two years ago a 21-year-old Alastair Cook was picked out of an A tour in the West Indies and flown to India as an emergency replacement for Marcus Trescothick who left the tour in somewhat mysterious circumstances even before it had begun. In that sense it was perhaps appropriate that England sent him forward to front the media in the first official press conference at Chennai ahead of the first Test, which begins on Thursday.
"The preparation has not been ideal," Cook said, referring to the brief stop-over the team had in Abu Dhabi for pre-series training before recounting his own experience from the last tour. "But I have been here two years ago, having travelled half way round the world, had just one training session and played. It can be done. You don't lose your technique overnight, it's very much a mental battle."
Cook tried to make light of the fact that the team would go into the first Test without much match practice but tried to put a positive spin on things. "We have been playing since mid-October and have been to West Indies. We have been doing a lot of preparations and the three days in Abu Dhabi have been brilliant," he said. "It has been very tough and it is probably not the ideal build-up but now we are here and we have a chance to play against a very good side in India."
Cook underscored how important the mental aspect would be and said that the team had been focusing on this for some time now. "We have to prepare ourselves mentally. What's happened recently has taken its toll but this side has got behind each other. There have been some very tough decisions individually and we are here to play as a unit."
On his last tour to India Cook was an instant success, scoring 60 in his first dig and following it up with his first century in the second Test. Once again he has a critical role to play, with his batting at the top of the order providing a platform for those to follow. "Huge first innings total are important for winning matches on dry wickets in India," he said. "We have been talking as a group and especially in India, we have to make a massive score. If you get your big scores in the first innings, you really set yourself up. We saw that in Nagpur and Mumbai [in 2006]…when we put pressure on the opposition."