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Looking for a new dawn

cricket Updated: Aug 31, 2011 01:55 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

This is not a kind place for visiting teams and the best of them find the going tough. Blame it on the Manchester United effect, which Arsenal will vouch for.

The towering persona of Alex Ferguson hangs from every corner in this city. It is a testimony to the difference a coach can make to a team.

Andy Flower is nowhere close to Ferguson in terms of years in the job or popularity, but he sure has made an impact since he took charge of England in 2009. Under him, the hosts are as intimidating as the Red Devils; just ask the Indian Test team?

Better off
India may be well-versed in Twenty20 thanks to the IPL, but it is Flower's side who are world champions in the format.

With the team psychologically down after the humiliation in Tests, lifting their morale will be a massive challenge for coach Duncan Fletcher. The pressure will be on the visitors in the T20 international on Wednesday.

Fletcher's cup of woes is overflowing. His first big assignment with India has been a disaster from Day One with injuries taking a toll on the team. They also start the second leg of the tour without a full-strength team. Opener Gautam Gambhir is unavailable due to his head injury and was visiting a local specialist on Tuesday.

It means, Rahul Dravid will be handed his Twenty20 international debut, and so will be Ajinkya Rahane. Dravid, as captain in 2007, decided not to play in the format. But there is no option due to the dire state the team find themselves in.

Dravid debut
India's batting line-up cannot be described as formidable. They struggled with the opening combination in Tests, and are again in the same situation. There is no clear choice for Parthiv Patel's opening partner. Rahane, a Mumbai middle-order bat, is likely to do the job.

Dravid will be at No 3 and India will be hoping the in-form batsman makes his first and last T20I count. Much will depend on Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, the form batsmen unaffected by the mental scars of the Test series.

Ashwin factor
With off-spinner R Ashwin coming in, India's bowling should be more competitive. Praveen Kumar is back to full fitness and giving him support will be two from among Munaf Patel, RP Singh and Vinay Kumar.

Flower is a believer that wars are effectively won before action starts. The key lies in preparation. The Test success notwithstanding, there are no signs of a drop in intensity.

Tuesday's training session was a fine example. The Old Trafford ground has changed since England last played here, and instead of nets Flower had them play a practice game. The square has changed and Stuart Broad said the game was designed to address that. "Since the square has been turned around, we needed to get used to the size of boundaries."

Fletcher will need to pull out new tricks from his old hat, or India could face more misery.

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