Cricket: England to stick with the old order

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The Independent Online
POSSIBLY inspired by occasional visions of Dexter through the smog - the chairman has rarely been known to admit to any errors he might have made - England's tour selectors opted to go into the second Test match here by declining to change a losing formula.

The only difference to the 12 chosen in Calcutta is a straight swap of the fit-again Phillip DeFreitas for Paul Taylor. After a meeting lasting for an hour and 10 minutes, about as long as it took England's batsmen to lose the first Test, they decided to re-name the top six en bloc.

It may have been a decision taken on the grounds that the batsmen could not possibly perform as poorly again, but it was clearly hard on Mike Atherton, who only withdrew (in favour of Neil Fairbrother) on the morning of the Calcutta Test because of illness.

Atherton, who made 33 and 0 in the last game in Vishakhapatnam, presumably had a premonition of being left out judging by his hangdog expression on the journey here, and his early worries about the tour itinerary have now come back to haunt him. After a good performance in the opening match, he was then idle for more than a fortnight, and despite an unbeaten 80 in the match before he fell ill in Calcutta, his form in Vishakhapatnam was not adjudged to be good enough. Had he played like a novice against spin at Eden Gardens, he would presumably have been picked here.

Having fined Philip Tufnell pounds 500 for 'ungentlemanly conduct' last week (which is about half as much as they should have fined themselves for unimaginative conduct in not picking him for the first Test) the selectors have not held his disciplinary misdemeanours against him, and if England lose this one with Tufnell in the XI this time, at least we will be able to return a different verdict from Calcutta - suicide, while the balance of the side was disturbed.

Whether or not the first Test was effectively lost by the paucity of England's batting against India's three spinners, there is no doubt that they misread the pitch and morale could hardly have been improved by the realisation that they had lumbered themselves with four seamers on a slow turner.

Tufnell has two kinds of record, a criminal one in the behaviour department, and a remarkably good one when it comes to bowling people out. In his 10 Tests so far, he has been responsible almost single-handedly for three victories, which represents an unusually high quota for a spinner in the modern era.

It is not beyond the bounds of belief that the selectors, whose intention when they came here was to take on the Indians at their own game, merely confused themselves by adding Ian Salisbury to the squad after the early matches.

Leaving patriotism out of the argument, England did the game a favour in Calcutta, albeit unwillingly, in proving that there is still a place for spinners in modern Test cricket. Seventeen of their 20 wickets at Eden Gardens were shared between Anil Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan.

However, it remains little short of remarkable that a country that has not produced a handful of fast bowlers of any note should have, in Kapil Dev, someone who is within 17 wickets of Richard Hadlee's world record, and the presence of Dennis Lillee at the England nets here yesterday was further evidence that, for all their tradition, India have come to terms with the general inadvisability of being a goldfish in a pool of pirhanas.

For the past five years, Lillee has been running a fast-bowling academy here, and on Tuesday night he hosted an evening on its goals and achievements.

The 43-year-old former Australian fast bowler presided over a distinctly naff film show ('Botham Bombs, Hadlee Howitzers', that sort of stuff) and the big sales pitch was how Lillee intends to convert 'pupils of promise into merchants of menace'.

Lillee did make the point that nine young Australians were currently at the academy, and wouldn't it be a good idea if there were a few Englishmen out here? Fat chance of affording it, actually. The more impecunious county treasurers will be pleased to know that the usual quota of TCCB officials have now breezed in to watch a spot of cricket.

ENGLAND 12 (for second Test v India, Madras, from today): G A Gooch (capt), A J Stewart (wkt), M W Gatting, R A Smith, G A Hick, N H Fairbrother, C C Lewis, P A J DeFreitas, I D K Salisbury, P W Jarvis, P C R Tufnell, D E Malcolm.

Boiling rescues England A, page 35