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England look to last men standing

The English side looked pretty formidable even after stunning loss to Pakistan, writes Subhash Rajta.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2006 01:48 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta

The India-England series had all the makings of an epic contest. The English side looked pretty formidable even after their stunning loss to Pakistan. The loss, one thought, would have further toughened them up and they could have proved more than a match for India.

But a lot has changed since they landed here. They have been hit by a spate of injuries, and the formidable looking side of a few weeks ago has crumbled like a house of cards. They have lost their best of men to injury, illness and unspecified personal problems, which has decisively tilted the balance in favour of India. England, therefore, now enter the contest as absolute underdogs.

In Michael Vaughan they have lost an able leader and dependable batsman, in Marcus Trescothick they have lost their best batsmen for these conditions, and in Simon Jones they have lost perhaps the most vital cog in their bowling machine, as he was more likely to succeed than other member of the famous seam quartet, with his reverse swing on the flat Indian wickets.

Add to the list Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Plunket (they are said to have recovered now), and we have a team in complete disarray even before the first ball is bowled.

Even though the English coach Duncan Fletcher put up a brave face saying that the morale of the team was high and they were looking ahead to the contest, it's anybody's guess that the team, in general, and skipper Andrew Flintoff, in particular, have a Herculean task at hand. "I know how tough it is to be called upon at the eleventh hour to lead the side. I have myself gone through it quite a few times and I can say it's not easy," said Rahul Dravid.

So while England will have little options in naming the side, India, on the other hand, might find itself in a little dilemma in picking the final XI.

The batting line-up will be more or less around expected lines with Jaffer set to open with Sehwag, but the Indian thinktank might feel tempted to field three spinners in view of the dry wicket and the prevailing conditions.

"We have no decided as to who will play and who will not, but we have kept the option of playing three spinners open," Dravid said.

All in all, the conditions and circumstances are heavily loaded in favour of the hosts to begin the series on a winning note. But with England all of a sudden becoming an underdog, they will feel the must-win pressure of being the favourite.

England, on the other hand, will see a lot of pressure lifted off them, as the nothing-to-lose feeling set in.

And that probably can add some drama and new twist to what is presently looking a one-sided contest.


India: Dravid, Sehwag, Jaffer, Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Kaif, Suresh Raina, Dhoni, Pathan, RP SIngh, Sreesanth, VRV Singh, Kumble, Harbhajan and Piyush Chawla

England: Flintoff, Strauss, Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Collingwood, Geriant Jones, Plunket, Harmison, Hoggard, Blackwell, Monty Panesar, Shaun Udal, Anderson and Shah

First Published: Mar 01, 2006 01:48 IST