Huge challenge, concedes Cook

England captain Alastair Cook on Monday described the forthcoming four-Test series against India as a huge challenge as no team from his country has won a Test series here for close to three decades.

“It’s a huge challenge as history suggests. It is so hard for an English side to win in the sub-continent. We are just desperate to use the conditions in these three (warm-up) games and change things around,” said the left-handed opener at his first post-arrival media conference here.

“Nowhere is it going to be easy; there are going to be really tough hurdles on the way. We have to overcome those challenges. As players we put ourselves in that situation as to what we want to do. If we want to be tested against the best in hard conditions then this tour is up there,” Cook elaborated.

The 2-1 Test series victory after coming from a match down in 1984-85 under David Gower was the last time England had beaten India in the latter’s shores.

The England team, baring Kevin Pietersen, flew in early this morning from Dubai, where they practiced for a few days before reaching the Indian shores.

Pietersen arrived late on Sunday night by a separate flight after taking part in the Champions League T20 in South Africa for Delhi Daredevils.

“Both sides have world-class players. It’s going to be a fantastic series to watch. Whichever team handles the conditions better will win the series,” said the England skipper, who had made his Test debut with a half-century and an unbeaten ton at Nagpur six years ago.

Cook was not too concerned about the nature of wickets that India would offer.
“We can’t control the wickets. We have to adapt to whatever the conditions are. I am sure India will have to do the same job,” he said.

Cook said there was no quick fix to play spin bowling, perceived as his team’s biggest threat from the Indian ranks, in the sub-continent and it has to be learnt gradually.

“(Graham) Gooch (former England captain and team batting coach) sent me here when I was 19. It’s never a single fix; it’s a gradual process to play spin in the sub-continent. I made my Test debut in India.

“I feel I have the experience to pass my experience to younger players. I have a fairly decent record here as well. If we have to win the series all of us will have to stand up and score runs,” he said.

Cook rued the absence of his long-term opening partner Andrew Strauss, who has retired, but said this gave a chance to some one else to put his hand up and deliver.
England take on India A from Tuesday and then Mumbai ‘A’ at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai from November 3-5 before moving on to play their final four-day warm-up game from November 8-11 ahead of the opening Test.

Cook was not bothered that India ‘A’ did not have any frontline spinner in their ranks.

“We have no right to select the India ‘A’ team, it’s not in out control. There’s Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina in the team for spin. We have done a huge amount of work after what happened in the UAE 12 months. We will continue to do that in the next two months,” he said.

Team director and former Zimbabwe captain Andy Flower said his team also focused on playing seam bowling in Dubai apart from spin. “Seamers can take wickets in these conditions. So that was part of our focus as well,” he said.

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