PICKING a Test side in India is often easier than it is at home, on the basis that there are seldom more than 11 fit players to choose from. Tactical nous is not quite so vital either, as it is by no means a rarity out here for the batting order to be decided by who is not in the lavatory when a wicket falls.
With the Calcutta Test match only five days away, England are almost certain to be without Phillip DeFreitas, and there is also a doubt about Devon Malcolm. DeFreitas, who missed the match against India Under-25s after slipping over in the shower on Friday night and tearing a groin muscle, had a similar injury last summer which kept him out for five weeks, and with the entire Test series here sandwiched into three and a half weeks, there is a real possibility that DeFreitas will miss all three matches.
Malcolm has a viral infection, and although he is nominally on the team sheet here, he has spent the last two days under a bed sheet being attended by the hotel doctor. There is the additional worry of his not having bowled since the opening game in Faridabad 20 days ago, although lack of match practice is less serious in Malcolm's case than in others. Either his radar is working, or it is not.
As for England's travel arrangements, they remain unwaveringly of the wing-and-a-prayer variety. The last time Robin Smith made a century abroad before this weekend was in Queensland in 1991, an achievement commemorated by David Gower's aerial salute from the cockpit of a Tiger Moth. However, Gower would be hard-pressed to get hold of any sort of aeroplane in India at the moment.
The airline strike has grounded England's flight this evening, and what should have been a 55-minute hop to Calcutta now involves a nine-hour rail journey. Apart from having had two venues switched, England have been bumped off one flight (to Chandigarh) and while Bob Bennett, the tour manager, is outwardly fit and well, he appears to be suffering from an overdose of sang-froid.
'India is an unpredictable place,' he said yesterday (not true, actually; nowhere is chaos more predictable than it is here) 'and everything is up in the air at the moment.' Not true either; England certainly aren't. One begins to wonder what it might take to get his dander up. When the players are hitch-hiking from Calcutta to Vishakhapatnam most likely.
Bennett claims that it is 'too expensive' to organise charters, but it is incongruous to watch Sky TV's commentators and equipment being flown direct by Indian Air Force planes, while the cricket team are being shunted from A to B (mostly via C) on every mode of transport bar bicycle and motorised rickshaw.
The International Cricket Council's continuing prevarication over whether to recognise a century made by Graham Gooch on the 1981-92 South African Breweries trip means that the England captain is unsure whether his hundred here on Saturday elevates him to the list of 22 batsmen to have made 100 first-class centuries.
On 6 January, the ICC unequivocally ruled it out, but it will have a rethink at its 2 February meeting at Lord's. Gooch dipped into the champagne in any case on Saturday, although he said that he would have been 'a little more elated' had he known for sure. However, elation is a relative term for Gooch, and when he decided not to resume his innings after tea, it went down as 'retired hurt' (he claimed a sore knee) rather than 'retired overcome'.
Smith, 103 overnight, declined to retire himself, although he played so indifferently yesterday (failing to reach 150 by the lunchtime declaration) that he almost managed to bat himself out of the form he was in on Saturday. However, Mike Atherton would have enjoyed this six and a quarter hours in the middle rather than his own seven-ball duck. Atherton had not had a knock for 17 days before Saturday, and has spent so long in the nets that he might have been suffering from agoraphobia.
As for the bowlers, Chris Lewis and Paul Taylor performed pretty well yesterday (Taylor might have had three more wickets had England's slip fielders not apparently nodded off in the heat) but it is the spin attack which is causing most concern.
John Emburey has already been whacked half-way around India, and Ian Salisbury and Phil Tufnell were treated with no more respect than club bowlers yesterday. In the unbroken century partnership between Amay Khurasia and Gyanendra Pandey, Tufnell conceded 20 runs in one over to Khurasia, one six, three fours, a single, and a no-ball. The only time anything gets airborne in India at the moment is when England spinners are bowling.
(Second day of three: England won toss) ENGLAND - First Innings (Overnight: 312 for 3) * G A Gooch ret hurt. . . . . . . . . 102 M A Atherton lbw b Zaidi. . . . . . . . 0 A J Stewart lbw b Gandhe. . . . . . . .39 R A Smith not out. . . . . . . . . . .149 M W Gatting c Bahutule b Zaidi. . . . .41 G A Hick c Puri b Kuruvilla. . . . . . 27 C C Lewis not out. . . . . . . . . . . 26 Extras (b8 lb11 nb4 w1). . . . . . . . 24 Total (for 4 dec). . . . . . . . . . .408
Did not bat: I D K Salisbury, J P Taylor, P C R Tufnell, D E Malcolm.
Fall: 1-4 2-71 3-303 4-364.
Bowling: Kuruvilla 28-2-91-1; Zaidi 29-5-91-2; Gandhe 20-2-87-1; Bahutule 35-9-86-0; Pandey 4-0-20-0; Jadeja 8-2-14-0
INDIA UNDER-25 - First Innings
* A S Jadeja lbw b Lewis 48 A R Khurasia not out. . . . . . . . . .88 J Paranjpe lbw b Taylor. . . . . . . . .1 R S Dravid lbw b Lewis. . . . . . . . .15 R Puri retired hurt. . . . . . . . . . 13 S S Dighe c Lewis b Salisbury. . . . . .8 G K Pandey not out. . . . . . . . . . .35 Extras (b1 lb4 nb11). . . . . . . . . .16 Total (for 4). . . . . . . . . . . . .224
To bat: A Kuruvilla, S V Bahutule, A W Zaidi, P V Gandhe.
Fall: 1-33 2-74 3-89 4-98.
Umpires: S K Bansal and A L Narasimhan.Reuse content