England aim to tame Tendulkar

It is some measure of how appalling the last six months have been for English cricket that the Texaco Trophy is now regarded important enough to have its own customised squad of players.

England, normally fierce advocates of Test cricket, have gone further in this direction than ever before, but although Raymond Illingworth and his panel have distanced the spectre of the World Cup with an enlightened selection here, the chairman has reopened other wounds with his ill-timed comments concerning Devon Malcolm's performance in last winter's Cape Town Test.

Illingworth, who was not at The Oval yesterday as England limbered up for the first of three one-day matches against India, has a habit of speaking his mind, but even he might have balked at the timing of his latest salvo. The Test and County Cricket Board almost certainly did, and he should be appearing in a committee room at Lord's soon.

Michael Atherton, looking relaxed after a long fielding session, refused to be drawn, saying he did not want to rake over old ground or dwell on the past. "It's at the back of my mind. At the moment I'm just looking for a better tomorrow," he said.

That day, despite the presence of their enthusiastic and innovative new coach, David Lloyd, will dawn only if England start winning. However, although most modern sportsmen will claim that winning is the only habit that matters, it is one England appeared to have kicked some time ago.

Since beating the West Indies 2-1 in the Texaco Trophy this time last year, England have won just three out of 13 one-day games, and two of those were against the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates.

As such, even the most optimistic fan might be hard pressed to come up with any of the usual positive things that get trotted out at this time of year, despite England's 58 per cent win rate in all one-day matches played at home since 1984.

And yet if there is a team that comes close to matching England in the despair stakes at the moment it is India, whose crushing World Cup semi- final defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka in Calcutta still lingers. They, too, are under pressure to deliver to an expectant public.

The man feeling the brunt of that pressure is India's captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, in the wake of his World Cup semi-final decision to put Sri Lanka in to bat on a pitch which subsequently broke up, along with the Indian batting.

Yesterday, after practice and still nursing a sore finger, he insisted that he had not been panicked into a drastic rethink. "Just because we played badly in one match, it doesn't mean you have to change your whole approach."

That approach, as is the fashion these days, includes playing a pinch- hitter, who is Sachin Tendulkar, one of the world's finest batsman. The wisdom of this was self-evident during the World Cup when Tendulkar flayed the bowling to all parts of the subcontinent.

However, on England's early season pitches, particularly with cloud and rain around, it may not be the most sensible thing to do. Should he fail early on - as even he might - the confidence of those batting behind could quite easily plummet.

For that reason, Atherton will probably attack him with the outswing of Dominic Cork and Peter Martin. India have admitted they need big scores to defend. On the evidence so far, Tendulkar is the man most likely to provide them and therefore might be better off at No 3 or 4.

In their warm-up games, India's bowling has for the most part been gentle and uninspiring. Only Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble have looked dangerous and they will head an attack that will probably be joined by the improving Paras Mhanbrey and the steady seam of Venkatesh Prasad.

In contrast England's problems will not be about who to pick, but who to leave out, particularly among the all-rounders. With intermittent rain falling at The Oval yesterday and with the pitch under wraps, those decisions will be made this morning, though it looks as if Ronnie Irani and Mark Ealham will miss out. Both are certain to play at least once in the series.

The only certainty - regarding the new faces - is that Alistair Brown will open the innings and will be given the licence to play as he does for Surrey. If the pitch is true, it should make for some interesting viewing, especially as Neil Smith, another who pinch-hits for his county, is earmarked for No 3 should Brown fail.

This, it appears, is all part of the new fluidity that Atherton and Lloyd want. As Atherton admitted, the widespread use of pinch-hitters keeps raising the ceiling for scores in one-day cricket. "When I started, 240 was a good score. Now it's only a moderate one." Over the next three matches, we shall see if he is right.

ENGLAND (from): M A Atherton (Lancashire, capt), A D Brown (Surrey), G A Hick (Worcestershire), G P Thorpe (Surrey), M P Maynard (Glamorgan), R C Irani (Essex), A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt), C C Lewis (Surrey), D G Cork (Derbyshire), N M K Smith (Warwickshire), P J Martin (Lancashire), D Gough (Yorkshire), M A Ealham (Kent).

INDIA (probable): V Rathore, S R Tendulkar, N S Sidhu, M Azharuddin (capt), S V Manjreker, A D Jadeja, N R Mongia (wkt), A Kumble, J Srinath, P L Mhanbrey, B K Prasad.

Umpires: R Julian (Eng) and P Willey (Eng).

Match referee: C Smith (West Indies).

The opening day of the County Championship match between Sussex and Middlesex at Horsham was abandoned yesterday without a ball being bowled.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Supply Teachers Required

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of Pay, Excellent CPD : Randstad Educati...

NQT and Experienced Primary Teachers Urgently required

£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: NQT and Experienced Primary Teac...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor