Moores issues a wake-up call

England coach hopes first 'real' match will get players' minds on the job
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The Independent Online

Peter Moores, the England coach, is hoping that Tuesday's dismal batting display in Mumbai will provide his side with the "wake-up call" it needs before tomorrow's opening one-day international against India in Rajkot. England have been bowled out for 99 and 98 in their last two competitive matches, totals that suggest they will struggle to compete with an Indian side rejoicing in a 2-0 Test series triumph over Australia.

"To me it was a clear indicator that mentally we weren't sharp or ready enough," said Moores. "To get bowled out for 98 is not good enough. It was not what we wanted but it is a mental not an effort thing. We have had six to seven weeks without competitive cricket so we are ready to go. The important thing is that we are mentally on the right page on Friday. The hardening will come through playing competitive cricket. Hopefully the loss will show us that what we are about to embark on here is real. We have been staying in a lovely hotel and feeling very relaxed during practice and watching India play Australia. We have to get in the right place mentally."

For England's sake it is to be hoped this proves to be the case. Friday's game, the first in a seven-match series, is crucial for England, who need to start well. Tuesday's embarrassing loss and the $20m defeat to the Stanford Superstars, when they were bowled out for 99, will have affected the confidence and morale of a side previously rejuvenated by the appointment of Kevin Pietersen as captain and five consecutive victories over South Africa.

England's task could be helped if India become complacent, as South Africa were after they had beaten England 2-1 in last summer's Test series. The mindset allowed England to pounce. The one difference here is that India's one-day side is far different to that which plays Test cricket. Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman are all past their one-day sell-by date, and Sachin Tendulkar is pacing himself these days. He will only return after the third one-dayer.

England will know relatively little about Yusuf Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Pragyan Ojha and Murali Vijay but these youngsters know how to play on slow, low pitches in front of big, noisy crowds in extreme heat. Such conditions will test the fitness and adaptability of Samit Patel, Luke Wright, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad, who have little or no experience of playing in India. If England are to win they will need to post and chase scores in excess of 270, tasks that mean they will have to be positive when the fielding restrictions are in place at the start of an innings. Reaching 60-1 at the end of the 15th over is not enough; the best teams regularly post 90 plus.

"The game is often shaped in the first hour," said Moores. "We have talked about the best way of making the most of the fielding restrictions. Powerplays [periods where just two or three fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle] are important but good sides, like India, make the most of the middle overs, too, where they accumulate runs without losing wickets so they can play big shots at the end. You can't take one section of the game, play it well, and win. You have to play well in each section."

England will gain their first experience of using the new "Powerplay" system tomorrow. In the past it has been the fielding side who have dictated when these five-over periods are implemented.

Now, however, the batting side has a say and it will be fascinating to see when they are used.

Broad appears to have recovered from the knee injury he sustained on Sunday and is expected to play. The final place, between James Anderson and Graeme Swann, will depend on whether England believe the pitch will take spin.

Ishant Sharma is India's only injury concern. The world's outstanding young fast bowler has been told to have five days' rest after spraining his ankle against Australia.

The ability of England's near 30-man travelling party to move seamlessly around this vast and chaotic country will not have been helped by Phil Neale's return home for surgery on his knee. The England team do not travel light and Neale, the operations manager, coordinates the movement of the players and their luggage. Look out for the occasional player wearing a team-mate's kit.

India (possible): MS Dhoni (capt), V Sehwag, G Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, S Raina, R Sharma, Y Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Z Khan, RP Singh, M Patel.

England (possible): K Pietersen (capt), I Bell, M Prior, O Shah, A Flintoff, P Collingwood, S Patel, L Wright, G Swann, S Broad, S Harmison.

IPL chief questions Pietersen's worth

Lalit Modi has raised the stakes over Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff's possible involvement in the Indian Premier League next spring – by insisting their availability must be substantial.

England's two highest-profile cricketers are thought to be keen to take part in the second running of the Twenty20 tournament. But the potential clash of dates between the IPL and the start of England's Test summer means there is uncertainty over how many matches for which they might be free.

Both would attract major bids at the auction for the next batch of international superstars but only, the IPL chairman Modi believes, if they are available for a good chunk of the season.

"Are the franchise owners happy for Kevin Pietersen to play a handful of matches and then go away?" Modi asked. "I don't think anybody would be happy with that. He wouldn't add any value and would be more of a disruption. It takes time to gel with team-mates and to become part of team strategy and implement that strategy.

"They need to be there for 15 or 16 matches – substantial numbers of games. If you ask, 'Is that practical?', I don't think it is currently."