Cricket: West Indies is the prize for rookie captain Hollioake

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Today is Adam Hollioake's first international in charge of England. However, as our Cricket Correspondent writes from Sharjah, there is more at stake for Hollioake than the Champions' Trophy.

Over the years, many people have gone into the desert and found themselves and their true vocation in life. The next week will offer Adam Hollioake the selfsame opportunity, as England's team of one-day specialists strive to win the Champions' Trophy in Sharjah.

For Hollioake, the prize could not be higher and unless his team acquit themselves abysmally, the Surrey captain is almost certain to retain the job for the one-day series in the West Indies next April.

If Hollioake does have prolonged designs on the captaincy, he hides it well and there are few signs of naked ambition. Indeed, at yesterday's press conference, he was coolly matter of fact about his mission here as England's leader.

"I've found the captaincy a lot easier than I thought it would be," he said. "But then the dressing-room atmosphere and team spirit have made my job a lot easier. In fact I'd say it's easier to captain England than Surrey.

"There's less complex players in this set-up," he said. "I don't want to stick the knife in, but everyone here has got aspirations, which makes it a lot easier."

Unlike his rough treatment of medium-pacers, Hollioake was more circumspect when asked if he had any aspirations of his own. "I just want to be involved," he said. "I'd much rather play in a winning side than captain a losing one and I certainly wouldn't lose any sleep if I wasn't in charge. To me the captaincy is just a bonus and a massive honour".

How much of an honour he will discover today as England lock horns with India. The match, the first to be played here under lights, will be a useful dry run for the far more ambitious series planned next year, as the ill-fated Disney World Cup is shifted from Orlando to the Gulf. Apparently, Mustapha Mouse and Abu Dhabi Duck are booked to make an appearance.

Making their limited-overs debuts for England, however, will be Dougie Brown and Matthew Fleming. As medium-pacers who can bat anywhere in the order, both men epitomise the multi- dimensional cricketers who David Lloyd, the England coach, wants in the one-day game.

Brown will take the new ball with Dean Headley, while Fleming will try to ensure that the old travels to the boundary as little as possible, by employing a bewildering array of yorkers, in-duckers and slower balls. His survival training with the Greenjackets will be tested to the hilt if either Sachin Tendulkar or Saurav Ganguly get their eye in.

When batting, England will open with the Surrey pair Alistair Brown and Alec Stewart. While the former will probably adopt the big-hitting style that brought him a century against India at Old Trafford last year (he has not played for England since), Stewart will apply the finesse in an attempt to counteract India's formidable new ball pairing of Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad.

Nick Knight, who will bat at three, spent a long time in the nets yesterday practising his reverse sweep. Clearly, the left-hander is is expecting to face more than one spinner, something England have forsaken by dropping Ashley Giles.

Warwickshire's left-arm slow bowler will joined in his 12th man duties by Peter Martin and Ben Hollioake. However, before cricket fans begin to accuse Hollioake Snr of fratricide, onlookers during England's warm- up games in Pakistan thought Hollioake Jnr looked out of sorts. Now 20, people tend to forget that last summer was Ben's first full season and it would be surprising if he was not feeling the effects of that.

Mind you, the truth is probably more mundane and on a pitch which no one is sure of, England are simply just picking their form players. The pitch is sporting a shave so close it has a sheen like the ones at Sabina Park in Jamaica, and looks full of runs.

As only two strips are being used for all seven matches, wear and tear will become a factor and England will need to amend their team accordingly

ENGLAND: A J Hollioake (Surrey, capt), A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt), A D Brown (Surrey), N V Knight (Warwickshire), G A Hick (Worcestershire), G P Thorpe (Surrey), M A Ealham (Kent), A D Brown (Surrey), M V Fleming (Kent), R D B Croft (Glamorgan), D W Headley (Kent).

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