England on the right track under Hussain

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The Independent Online

Captains were the big difference between the two sides here. Nasser Hussain can reasonably lay claim to being England's best captain since Mike Brearley was in charge in the late 70s and early 80s. On the other hand, Sourav Ganguly has a laissez faire attitude on the field while apparently presiding over a Douglas Jardine-autocracy in the dressing room.

Hussain gets the best out of his side; Ganguly manifestly does not and it is no more than an informed guess to imagine that he does not rule over an entirely happy team. The Indian press are gunning for him, but he comes from Calcutta, the home of the ruthless and equally autocratic Jagmohan Dalmiya who runs Indian cricket and who will surely look after his own.

Similar to Brearley, Hussain understands his players, which enables him to maximise his team's performance. It was a triumph that the captain, with the help of the coach, Duncan Fletcher, was able to turn the England side around in that brief, four-day, gap between Mohali, where they were comprehensively outplayed, and the encouraging draw here.

Without doubt the riot act had been read in a decisive and meaningful, but not unkind or dictatorial way. The mood of last winter's tour to Pakistan and Sri Lanka was recaptured. Suddenly, the batsmen realised their responsibilities. Dangerous and impractical strokes were cut out and in no one was this more evident than in the two who had been most guilty, Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher.

When the smooth course of England's first innings had been interrupted by two outrageous umpiring decisions, it will have been the captain who would have ensured that the dressing room was not taken over by disruptive anger. It was now that Craig White and Jamie Foster, both batting failures in the first match, came to the rescue.

White clenched his teeth and coped with the spinners most capably, albeit with a little luck. At the other end, Foster ruthlessly denied himself that ugly sweep that put paid to him in both innings in the first Test and batted with sense and determination.

Hussain must take much credit for England's 407, therefore, and in the field his presence was even more obviously effective. He decided to frustrate the Indian strokemakers in the hope they would get themselves out. Without Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick, the two main strike bowlers, this was a sensible and justifiable tactic. It worked extremely well in the first innings when Ashley Giles bowled marvellously in his first serious outing for months. This not only reflected great credit on Giles' determination and refusal ever to give in to his achilles injury, but also Hussain will have had a hand in shaping Giles' attitude.

In the field, Hussain is always changing things around, trying to unsettle the batsman's concentration and is always eager to listen to suggestions from his colleagues. He handled Richard Dawson sympathetically when he did not bowl well in the first innings and gave him a long and profitable spell at the end of the match when he took Sachin Tendulkar's wicket which will have done him a lot of good. Hussain is likely to be England's trump card again in Bangalore this week.

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