One day makes difference for Fletcher's raw recruits

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The Independent Online

England's chronic injury list in India has given several fringe players an opportunity to show that they have the potential to make it as international players. Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood, Monty Panesar, James Anderson and Owais Shah achieved this during the Test series, yet in three consecutive one-day defeats the replacements have yet to make an impression.

Matthew Prior has passed 20 in each game but has yet to reach 40; Kabir Ali took four wickets in Delhi but still concedes far too many runs; Sajid Mahmood had a terrible day in Goa, and Shah has failed in his last four visits to the crease while Ian Blackwell and Liam Plunkett have performed at best moderately.

Why is it that inexperienced players appear to glide seamlessly into the Test team and perform instantly, yet their introduction to the one-day side is as rough and challenging as driving on an Indian road? Especially when Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, is keen for the one-day side to be as close to the Test team as possible.

English cricketers play more limited-over matches than any other nation at a domestic level, yet we continue to produce very few world-class performers. Limited-over cricket is treated as a second-class affair in England, and the volume of cricket gives players very little time to practise the skills required to play this form of the game. It is the same for the England team, who had one practice game before taking on India in Delhi.

The mentality of the two England teams is vastly different, too. The one-day side attempt to talk a good game but deep down they know they have problems. In Test cricket, however, they know they are good. This calmness and confidence are transmitted to new players and it produces outstanding performances.

"Test cricket gives inexperienced players and the team the time to regroup," Fletcher said yesterday. "It is difficult to do this in one-day cricket, where you have only 300 balls to make something happen. In Test cricket you can sit around and take a bit of time to adapt to the pitch and the conditions for 20 overs. If you did this in one-day cricket you would have a bit of a problem.

"We are going through a spell when there have been changes and naturally we are going to struggle a little bit. And when a number of inexperienced players, who do not yet know their role in the side come together, in a country where the pitches are foreign, winning becomes a very difficult task. If we had played India with the squad that played good one-day cricket against Australia last summer it would have been difficult. If you make two or three changes to a side it equates to a huge amount of restructuring. But we were six players short of our strongest side in Goa.

"Even so, in the first two one-day games we gave India a good run for their money.

"In Goa they got away from us, but that had a lot to do with the heat. We hope that the players gain useful experience over the four remaining games, so that if our major players aren't available they can eventually step in."

England will undoubtedly make changes for tomorrow's game in Cochin, the fourth in the seven-match series. Kevin Pietersen should have recovered from the stomach problem that kept him out of Monday's game, and the positions of Shah and Mahmood could be under threat. Vikram Solanki or Ian Bell is likely to replace Shah, while Mahmood's spot will be challenged by Gareth Batty and Matthew Hoggard.

Cochin is even hotter than Goa and it should provide the batsmen with the best pitch of the series. In three of the four games played at the 80,000-seater Nehru Stadium the side batting first have scored more than 280.

India (probable): R S Dravid (capt), V Sehwag, I K Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, M Kaif, S K Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wkt), R P Powar, A B Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth.

England (probable): A Flintoff (capt), A J Strauss, M J Prior, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, G O Jones (wkt), I D Blackwell, L E Plunkett, G J Batty, J M Anderson.