Cricket / Second Test: Tufnell required for variety turn: England, one down and two to play against India, must now rely on the power of positive thinking

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The Independent Online
INDIA'S fascinating mixture of the modern and the near-biblical manifests itself in many incongruous sights. Satellite dishes are perched on top of slums, taxi ranks outside five-star hotels offer a kamikaze service in antiquated Austin Ambassadors, and Madras also happens to provide the cricketing equivalent of finding a Sainsbury's superstore in the middle of dilapidated street barrows dispensing green chewing leaves and bathtub gin.

Here, in the spiritual home of loop, flight and spin, is situated the Dennis Lillee Academy of fast bowling - graduates, thus far, nil, but none the less, India's realistic approach to the modern and, some would say, slighly depressing trend of international cricket.

However, as England prepare for the second Test match tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that they will not be facing another trial by slow bowling. India won in Calcutta through their more traditional resources and in angling terms, they will once again be tickling for trout as opposed to lobbing hand grenades over the side of the boat.

The question now is whether England will attempt to play the home team - as was their intention when they picked the squad in September - at their own game. In Calcutta, the when-in-Rome adage became slightly confused with when at Headingley, and the four- fast bowler policy turned out to be a tactical gaffe of faintly embarrassing proportions. Paul Taylor's major contribution as a bowler, in fact, was in running on to the pitch in his follow-through and giving the Indian spinners some inviting rough to bowl into.

The pitch here at the Chepauk Stadium looks as though it will offer a good deal more bounce than the one at Eden Gardens but, as this is also an important weapon in the spinner's armoury, England will surely not be so completely seduced by pace again.

Indian batsmen traditionally play spin much more easily than fast bowling and the tour selectors may also have been influenced by Allan Donald's comments after the South Africa-India Test series, when Donald alleged that one or two of the visiting batsmen were in no danger of winning medals for gallantry under fire. However, variety has always been the key in the land of spice and it seems inconceivable that Philip Tufnell will not be allowed the chance to improve on his record of 38 wickets in 10 Test matches.

Tufnell is a complex character, who involuntarily parted company with more than one school in his youth and has also spent a fair amount of his cricketing education in the headmaster's study. He is as nonconformist as the Australian off-spinner Greg Matthews, and no one was greatly surprised when those two formed a close off-the-field friendship (Dennis the Menace meets Beryl the Peril) on the Ashes tour to Australia a couple of years ago.

However, having fined him - a trifle excessively, perhaps - for his misdemeanours against the Rest of India XI in Vishakhapatnam, England have no need to inflict further punishment by omitting him again here. Neither is it in their own interests to do so. Tufnell is a proven match-winner and, at 1-0 down with two to play, this is no time for negative thinking.

It is also time for them to think more positively about India's own shortcomings. Mohammad Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar are two world-class acts in an otherwise ordinary batting line-up, and by far the best spinner that England have encountered so far on tour, Maninder Singh, cannot get into the Indian side.

The one decision that England have to make about their batting line-up is whether to play Michael Atherton, as they would have done in Calcutta had he not been ill. Neil Fairbrother is an option but so, too, given that Alec Stewart's finger injury makes it a problem for him to keep wicket against the faster bowlers, is Richard Blakey.

What is not in England's favour is that they have so many players barely recovered from viruses and stomach complaints and that playing in Madras is like playing inside a Turkish bath.

Smith in the mood,

Cork's anger,

Waqar takes five, page 30

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