India, England focus on emotional Test series
Rival captains Kevin Pietersen of England and Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India urged teammates to forget tragedy and focus on cricket when the two-Test series starts on Thursday.
The Tests were in grave doubt when England abandoned the seven-match one-day series and returned home last month following the terror attacks in Mumbai that left 172 dead and almost 300 injured.
But security checks and a shift in venues—Ahmedabad was due to host the first Test and Mumbai the second—convinced the England and Wales Cricket Board to send the team back to India after much debate.
“This is an emotional time for all of us, but we must try to forget the past and get on with the job at hand, which is to play cricket,” said Dhoni.
“It was difficult to think of cricket when the attacks took place, and I am glad England are back to play the Test series because we have to move on.”
Pietersen said now that his team was back in India, any debate about the decision to play the Tests in the wake of the Mumbai attacks had to be put aside.
“We need to chuck everything away that has happened in the past to make sure that now our primary goal and focus is to try to win this Test match series,” the England captain said.
“What has happened has happened and we can’t control it, but we are in a very privileged position to be playing Test-match cricket in India and we have got to deal with it in a professional manner.”
Pietersen admitted his team faced a tough battle against an Indian team buoyed by the 2-0 triumph against world champions Australia in October/November and a 5-0 one-day drubbing of England.
“I am not going to sit here and say we are going to win the series, but we will certainly give it our best shot,” he said.”
England go into the match under-prepared, having last played a Test match in August, when Pietersen’s men beat South Africa in his first game as captain.
Pietersen announced that off-spinner Graeme Swann would make his Test debut as the second slow bowler alongside Monty Panesar, while James Anderson and Steve Harmison would share the new ball.
Matt Prior won the wicketkeeper’s slot over Tim Ambrose, who played in the last series against South Africa.
India, who will finalise their playing XI on Thursday morning, are set to recall left-hander Yuvraj Singh in place of the retired Sourav Ganguly.
Yuvraj, ignored for the preceding Test series against Sri Lanka and Australia, forced his way back after scoring two one-day centuries against England last month.
“Yuvi can make an impact with both bat and ball and I hope his good form continues,” said Dhoni of the middle-order batsman, who turns 28 on Friday.
The outcome of the first Test, to be held under tight security at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, could hinge on the weather, with rain forecast over the next three days.
The second and final Test will be played in the northern town of Mohali from December 19.
England: Kevin Pietersen (captain), Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior, James Anderson, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann.
India (likely): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma.—AFP.