Cricket: England welcome a shift to the warmer climes

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ENGLAND, whose disorientating acclimatisation period in India has left them more in need of thermal underwear and mugs of Bovril than sunhats and rehydration tablets, flew gratefully south to warmer climes yesterday to prepare for the more serious business of this tour.

On the subject of gratitude, now that the temperatures are more appropriate to the pouring of something chilled, the tourists might have felt inclined to raise a glass yesterday to the Indian selectors, who have apparently forgotten that the next item on the agenda involved matches scheduled to last five days rather than one.

The one bowler to have caused England consistent problems so far is the left-arm spinner, Maninder Singh. However, while the different disciplines involved in limited- overs cricket meant that England were not too surprised not to be facing Maninder in the last two one-day internationals, his absence from India's 14-man Test squad is harder to comprehend.

The only changes the Indian selectors have made to their one-day squad are to replace the wicketkeeper Vijay Yadav with Kiran More, and the medium-pacer Salil Ankola with the middle-order batsman Ajay Sharma. Pleased though England are at Maninder's absence, they were not so fortunate in the case of Navjot Sidhu.

Disappointed though Sidhu might have been to miss out on John Emburey's bowling in Chandigarh, he tucked in well enough with a couple of sixes against Ian Salisbury, and England must have found it difficult to choose between those two for the three-day match against an Indian Under-25 team starting here today.

In the end, they came down in favour of Salisbury, presumably in the belief that when the leg-spinner reverts to his more attacking style, he is more likely to take wickets than Emburey. This being the last match before the first Test, England have now identified their probable spin line-up for Calcutta as Salisbury and Philip Tufnell.

Typically by England's standards, however, they have failed to separate fact from fiction. The official line yesterday was that Emburey is troubled by a groin strain - but while the selectors' motives might be kindly enough, the news that he is not fit to play is most certainly news to Emburey himself. Paul Jarvis and Chris Lewis are rested for this game, and assuming that England do play two spinners in Calcutta, the three seamers in action here - Phillip DeFreitas, Devon Malcolm and Paul Taylor - are competing for one Test place.

Today's selection also confirms their intention to partner Graham Gooch with Michael Atherton, with Alec Stewart at No 3. Atherton has not played any cricket for 17 days now, which is down to a combination of the itinerary, and the fact that (despite being named 'man of the series' in the 1991 Texaco Trophy against the West Indies) he is not regarded as much of a one-day batsman. Atherton has been philosophical about it, and did not expect England to accommodate him for the one-day matches here. However, he did say yesterday: 'It makes all the Lilleshall training redundant when you spend so much time sitting around on your backside.'

Conversely, Sachin Tendulkar has decided that his backside is long overdue contact with the sofa and has withdrawn his services as captain of the Indian Under-25 team. Tendulkar yesterday confided to his mentor, Sunil Gavaskar, that 19 is not much of an age to be suffering from burn-out, and has thrown his bat into a cupboard for the next few days.

This is hardly surprising. India have been on the road for almost 18 months, and arrived back from South Africa two weeks after England got here. Some of the Indian team stopped in Kenya for a game on the way back and were surprised to find the rest of the team was stuck at Bombay airport. Thanks to the airline strike, the players who flew direct from Johannesburg waited 36 hours for a connection in Bombay, and as those in the England party new to the sub-continent have discovered, travel in India does not so much broaden the mind, as drive you out of it.

With aircraft schedules that are barely worth the ticket they are written on (strike or no strike), trains that would render a sardine claustrophobic, and road travel that is as near to attempted suicide as makes no difference, the logistical difficulties of getting from A to B in India are such that cricketers around the world will be waiting with some trepidation to see whether the International Cricket Council awards the next World Cup to the sub-continent when they meet at Lord's on 2 February.

The Test and County Cricket Board will also argue that the sub- continent's plan to stage the tournament in December-January places a premium on winning the toss - as has been the case in both the one-dayers on this tour - but such is the ICC's bewildering voting system, that England's bid to stage the event in 1996 is probably no better than even money.

ENGLAND (v India Under-25, today): *G A Gooch, M A Atherton, A J Stewart, R A Smith, M W Gatting, G A Hick, P A J DeFreitas, I D K Salisbury, J P Taylor, P C R Tufnell, D E Malcolm.

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