Cricket: Relaxed and calm before the storm

Presenting: The first part of a tour diary by England's Andrew Caddick
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The Independent Online
THIS tour is taking its time to start. It rained in Antigua and eventually it rained so much that the England party decided to leave. We had trained, we had kept fit, we had run, the bowlers had bowled on the road (not much bounce or away movement) to keep their bodily parts functioning. We had done enough, masterminded by our fitness coach, to get stiff. But we had been able to have no net practice, so the arrangements were made to leave early for Jamaica.

The start of the journey was not as straightforward as it might have been. The plane was waiting on the runway when one passenger decided to leave his seat to get a sandwich in the airport terminal. The upshot was that he wasn't back on board when we were due to take off and all the luggage had to be unloaded. It was the sort of delay you can probably get by without.

But here we are now in Jamaica in good heart. The mood is relaxed, confident, optimistic. These are important days for getting to know each other, for settling in as a team, for learning about foibles, of how guys might cope under pressure. Most of us in this squad already know each other. Half of us were here the last time four years ago. But there are those who weren't. Now's the time we learn about each other off the field. It can be crucial when you're on the field.

The bowlers have worked together, had a little meeting, started to plan our strategy. Things changed on the eve of departure when Darren Gough withdrew from the squad. That attack is now bound to have a different composition. It has perhaps given me a more important role. I'm happy with that. I expect to play in the First Test.

All the bowlers will come into the reckoning and Gussy Fraser's role cannot be underrated. Not that it ever could have been. He is not so much our coach or mentor but he is the sort of bowler who generates enormous respect among his fellows. He bowls straight, you see. The talks on batsmen will get more and more intense as the big games approach. They all have their weaknesses of one sort or another.

Last summer, Gough and I bowled pretty well as a pair. I like him as a partner, our styles complement each other's. But it will work with Dean Headley too. There are no qualms about that. The younger bowlers, Ashley Cowan and Chris Silverwood, are playing for places as well now.

The news that Brian Lara has been made captain of the West Indies makes little difference to us. Maybe not exactly underwhelming, but neither are we overwhelmed. Great player, and a key member of the side, but we are not thinking of Lara at the moment and what he might do, we are planning what England can do.

These are the brave new touring days of separate rooms for all the players, an innovation which came in last year at the suggestion of Lord MacLaurin when he became chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board. Actually, before we got to our Jamaican hotel we shared chalets in Antigua, me with Cowan, but we had our own bedrooms. That worked all right - no possibility of being disturbed by your team-mate's snoring.

These are long waiting days. Only when you start bowling again do you find if the good form with which you finished the last English season is still intact, but I am pretty upbeat about that.

It is just a bit difficult with my wife Sarah being so far away since she is expecting our first child this year. But there is some compensation - what a way this is to be reprieved from the decorating duties.

The practices will take on an earnest nature from now on. The first match starts on Friday in Kingston. There is only one more after it before the First Test, so they are important. I shall be playing in the first.

But there are still long hours to be filled before the serious business starts. I'm filling them by reading The Partner by John Grisham about a lawyer who fakes his death and absconds with $90 million. It's gripping stuff so far. But we're waiting for the cricket.