Cricket: England turn to Salisbury

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S lack of success against spin so far on this tour (18 of their 22 wickets have fallen to the slower bowlers) has not just been confined to Indian opposition, and yesterday they announced that Ian Salisbury, the Sussex leg spinner who has been causing their batsmen a good deal of embarrassment in the nets, would be staying on for the rest of the trip.

Salisbury, originally selected for the A tour, and due to fly to Australia on 26 January, said that he was 'pleased and surprised' to be told over breakfast yesterday morning that he was being kept on, and it is clearly an upward career move for a player capped twice against Pakistan last summer. If it had not been, the prospect of swapping Australia for India might have persuaded him to start bowling a few more long hops and half-volleys.

The only real surprise about Salisbury's retention is why it took the captain, Graham Gooch, and the team manager, Keith Fletcher this long to make the decision. 'His variety could play a part in the Test series,' Gooch said yesterday, 'and we are giving ourselves every option.'

This, of course, they could have done when they selected the tour party back in September, and it has been patently obvious since the opening day of the tour that England's attack required more variety on India's slow, mud- baked pitches.

Salisbury, in fact, would not even be here had he not been paid for by the England sponsor whose name is splashed across their training gear, and the idea of bringing him was to get England's batsmen into the groove of playing leg spin. As it happens, all Salisbury has done is to convince one or two that they can not play leg spin at all.

Salisbury, who will be 22 tomorrow week, has become a much better bowler since concluding after the Old Trafford Test last summer (he was dropped after returning match figures of 0 for 184) that he had become too cautious and predictable. He decided to toss it up more, bowl more googlies and top- spinners, and ended the season with 87 first-class wickets.

Whether Salisbury would have been retained had Philip Tufnell and John Emburey been bowling better is hard to say, but on current form, neither looks capable of disturbing India's Test batsmen too much. Emburey will presumably set the auto-pilot to nag rather than tease during the one-day internationals, and England's team for today's limited overs match against the Indian Board President's X1 in Delhi is pencilled in as their first- choice XI (at the moment, anyway) for the one-day series.

Whether this six-match saga will begin on schedule this weekend is still not known, and neither is the venue. Bob Bennett, the tour manager, was expecting to hear yesterday morning whether or not Saturday's cancelled game at Ahmadabad could be rearranged, either here in Delhi, or at the venue for Monday's second one-dayer, Jaipur, but discovered, not for the first time, that things are not quite that simple in India.

He did not even get to meet the secretary of the Indian Board, Changappa Nagray, until 10 o'clock last night, and after two hours of bartering in his hotel room, a decision has now been delayed until this evening. Sky TV are presumably tearing their hair out wondering where to cart all their gear, but all Bennett was able to say was: 'Delhi looks unlikely'.

As for the rest of the tour going ahead with any semblance of order, there was mild encouragement to be gained from the Indian Board taking the decision to cancel Ahmadabad, in that they have a legendary reputation for inertia. Rumour has it that Lord's are still waiting for a reply about one or two itinerary queries for Douglas Jardine's tour in 1933-34.

Further ahead, the third Test, scheduled for Bombay towards the end of next month, is likely to be moved to Delhi if the current wave of shooting, looting and arson there continues much longer. When Gooch and Fletcher posed for publicity pictures in front of a map of India at the team's training ground yesterday, someone tried to make the photograph more realistic by leaning over and holding a cigarette lighter over Bombay.

Gallows humour is the customary safety valve on these occasions, and some more might be needed from England's under-19 side, who arrive here tomorrow for a three- Test series. According to Tim Lamb, the Test and County Cricket Board secretary, Bennett is in daily touch with the British High Commission, and has had 'further assurances from the Indian Cricket Board regarding the security of both our teams'. No problem, in fact. Not everyone, apparently, is aware that the translation of 'no problem' in India is: 'I haven't got the faintest idea what's going on'.

ENGLAND (v Indian Board President's XI): * G A Gooch, A J Stewart, R A Smith, N H Fairbrother, M W Gatting, G A Hick, D A Reeve, C C Lewis, P A J DeFreitas, J E Emburey, P W Jarvis.

James Boiling, the Surrey off- spinner, will replace Salisbury on the England A tour of Australia. Boiling, 24, took 45 wickets last season at 35.08 runs apiece.

Jones drives Australia, page 30

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