Sandeep seeks show of passion

Stephen Brenkley talks to the Indian coach about the balance of his side
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If England expect much from David Lloyd it is nothing to what India positively demand of Sandeep Patil. Like Lloyd, the tourists' cricket manager is entering his first Test series in the role; like Lloyd he is still getting to know the team and their characteristics; and like Lloyd he will probably run things with a combination of toughness and kindness. His charges can expect, as Lloyd famously put it, "a bit of a cuddle" but they might receive a kick up the backside as well.

"I will be making no excuses. We know what it can be like when we are in England and we just have to go out and get on with playing," he said, looking out on a cold, bleak, barely populated Hove ground last week. Similarly, he rejected the assertion that at the very least it might be a tad too cold for his side's spin bowlers, on whose fingers and wrists their chances in England, at least in the Test series, may rest. "I don't believe in that," he said. "We don't have the right for it to be warm, whether you are a spin-bowler or not."

There spoke a batsman - he played 29 Tests and scored four centuries - but he is not so uncompromising that he dismisses the wish for warmer weather and quickly. It would, he knows, make a difference to the pitches and therefore to the balance of India's side. Sandeep estimates both the one-day and Test series at 50-50. This is perhaps realistic but he is aware of the expectations at home. It is three years since India toured anywhere, but the passion and expectation of good tidings from the team abroad will not have diminished.

"If I don't produce the results then I know what's likely to happen to me," Sandeep said, "but I've been pleased with what we've done in our time here. We could have bowled better than we have but again I'm making no excuses for that. I have no worries about our batting and they will get runs."

This does not depart from most other observers' assessments of the squad and nor does Sandeep's pronouncement that Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble will be the wicket-taking bowlers, the rest merely working optimistically around them. England's bad winter may affect performance, but Sandeep does not underestimate his hosts. Similarly, he feels it would be silly for England to underestimate India.

"There is no such thing as an experimental side at this level, and this isn't one," he said, referring to the decision to omit such established players as Manoj Prabhakar and Vinod Kambli. "It's unproven and we're about to see if it can prove itself. It's always harder when you're on tour, and that goes for all sides. You're playing against teams who have all the support and nothing really favours you, but that is something all cricket sides, and this one is no different, have to learn about."

Sandeep said that Rathore was the obvious early success of the tour. "He has batted beautifully," he said, giving the blazing young opener a metaphorical cuddle. "But he should remember that it's important to finish a tour getting runs as well, because that's what people remember," he added giving him a gentle kick up the backside.

This is Sandeep's 11th visit to England and he has acquired a deep knowledge of conditions and the techniques required. He was in the 1986 party which took the series. "That was a good side, probably better than this one but this team might be good enough."

Tourists at Hove, page 28