Gateway beckons for men of future

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The Independent Online
THE most enduring image of Bombay, where England A play the first game of their tour today is the Gateway, which is modelled on the Arc de Triomphe. As English cricket emerges bruised and battered from a week of suffering at the hands of Shane Wa rne, the next generation must bring it victorious into a better and brighter future.

The scale of that task does not douse the enthusiasm of the A team tour manager, John Barclay. The former Sussex captain wants the players to forget the dramas in Australia and learn. It is experience and development that are the crucial.

"I want the players to enjoy being here. If you're happy in a country, you'll play much better,'' Barclay said over a pot of tea in the team hotel. The unhappy senior tour two years ago disintegrated amid a welter of flawed selections and poor dinner dishes and it has left its mark. Barclay's refreshing manner suggest that he wants to create a perfect environment in which players can flourish. "Winning would be nice, but what's more important is how individuals perform under different conditions, and how much they learn.''

They will also be hoping to emulate John Crawley and Darren Gough's performances on the last A tour and claim a place in the senior side, if not for this summer's series with the West Indies then for the 1996 World Cup, which will also be played in the sub-continent.

The captain, Alan Wells, a fine player of fast bowling and an excellent one-day cricketer, leads the fight for the middle-order with his deputy, Mark Ramprakash, who had an unhappy tour of the West Indies last winter. Dominic Cork will be out to show he is the next Ian Botham and Min Patel's 90 first-class wickets last summer have put Phil Tufnell in his sights.

England's cricket supporters are desperate to see some white knights come charging out of the mist. The programme starts tomorrow with a one day match against the Cricket Club of India - a more modest version of the MCC. The pavilion at the Brabourne Stadium has the wicker chairs and musty atmosphere of old-time cricket.

A four-day game across town at the Wankhede Stadium and a trip to Madras precedes the start, in Bangalore, of the three "Test" matches and three one-day internationals. The tour manager's comments notwithstanding, in the land that makes the most films inthe world, English cricket does not need any more horror stories.

ENGLAND A TOUR ITINERARY Today CCI XI (Bombay); 3-6 January Indian Youth XI (Bombay); 8-11 Board President's XI (Madras); 14-18 INDIA A (Bangalore); 21-24 Combined Universities XI (Delhi); 27-31 INDIA A (Calcutta); 4-8 February INDIA A (Chandigarh); 11 India A (Indore); 14 India A (Ahmedabad); 16 India A (Hyderabad); 20 Bangladesh XI (Dhaka); 22 Bangladesh XI (Dhaka); 24-26 Bangladesh XI (Dhaka).