England, who need all the 50-over cricket possible if they are to achieve adequacy in time for the World Cup, were deprived of more precious match practice yesterday. Overnight storms made the Tamil Union surface unplayable for their final warm-up against Sri Lanka A and, although the ground staff went as far as putting stumps in the ground, it was only for show.
With the inter-monsoonal rains showing little sign of abating, there is a serious prospect of the one-day series, which starts on Wednesday, being affected. Local sages insist that the tropical downpours should work their way through by the end of the week and that is certainly the usual pattern here as December approaches.
A middle practice was hastily arranged but England will definitely be lacking match sharpness a while yet. Only 68 overs in total were possible in the first practice match because of rain. The squad’s new batting coach, Mark Ramprakash, has been impressed by what he has seen and heard so far but must be concerned that he has heard much more than he has seen.
“I have been pleasantly surprised because I think we have a group here that are communicating very well as players,” he said. “They’re learning off each other, they’re not afraid to talk to each other and they are open to discussing ideas.
“That’s very healthy and it’s not something I have seen a lot of in England dressing rooms. So that’s refreshing and it can only help that people are willing to give feedback to other players, talk to each other, talk about the game and the way it’s evolving and adapting. Very encouraging.”
The inference could be drawn that players are more open with each other now and that in the recent past, with certain individuals whom Ramprakash did not mention, that was not the case. But it is still glaringly obvious that Ramprakash’s charges are off the pace in modern internationals. He could not quite concede the point.
“I think essentially the main thing is mindset,” he said. “It’s courage, and although they have got an England shirt on it’s going out and trying to play with the freedom and confidence as if they’re playing for their county. It’s very difficult to do, as we all know, but if we can try and create that feel within the group, the mindset as they’re walking out is, ‘We want to try and impose ourselves’; that’s the first thing and then, of course, you have to control your emotions and if you do get in you go on to a bigger score, which helps the team.”
It may be an asset for Ramprakash as a coach that he was one of the great underachieving stylists of his generation. Do not do as he did, do as he says now, learn from his example. None of the coaching team is talking up England’s chances in the World Cup since they know there is no point. Not talking them down is the trick.
“It’s fair to say that England for the World Cup would be a wild card because form in the last few years would suggest that,” Ramprakash said. “The potential of the group, however, is I think there and I think they can shift quickly because these lines of communication are open and they are willing to evolve. I’m very hopeful that the potential in the group is such that they will surprise a few people.” They might have to surprise even themselves.
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