We are the underdogs: Cook
After winning the Test series and leveling the T20 series, the England team are back in India, fresh from a Christmas and New Year’s break for the five-match ODI series beginning January 11 here.
Prior to playing the first match of the series at the stadium in Khandheri, Alastair Cook’s side is expecting a challenging series ahead. Although they registered comprehensive wins in the longest format of the game, the visitors lost both their warm-up matches in Delhi ahead of this series. Speaking about the losses, England captain Alastair Cook said, “Yeah, I know it’s not an ideal start. I missed the first game and in the second game, it was apparent that we had improved from the first game.”
“For us to win, I think, it showed the challenge we are going to have in our hands. Our skill levels will need to improve a lot. It’s going to be a challenge. But we have to do something that no English team has done for a while,” he added.
Regarding the pressure that the players will be feeling as they embark on the series, he observed, “I think these guys feel pressure pretty much every day they play cricket. I don’t think it changes in this series. Clearly, we are the underdogs in this series, but if you look through our side we have got a lot of firepower and world-class players. For us to win this series, those world-class players and everyone in our squad have to play out of our skin.”
“In these conditions, there is very little margin for error. We found that out the last time we were here and those two warm-up matches. Maybe in English conditions where the ball nips around a bit with both the white balls early on you can afford to leave that margin for error. But here, you get punished if you are off [your] line or length. So that’s tough on bowlers in these conditions and these quick outfields as well, there are going to be high-scoring games. We got to try and nail those skills and keep those freebies down as much as you can,” Cook added while talking about their bowling.
He also observed, “I think in any time in one-day international cricket, early wickets is the key. If you get early wickets, you are in good position. The way of doing is nailing your skills to put the batters under pressure so that they have to play big shots. That doesn’t change wherever you are playing, whether you are playing in India or England. That will be alright, you know in the first two games there was a bit of rustiness and there was a lack of rhythm to the bowling. We couldn’t manage to put pressure on the opposition and they got off to good start.”
Further, while discussing the new rules, like the two bouncers per over in ODIs and adapting to them, Cook said, “I think in these conditions, these [new] rules will have less of an impact than say in Australia or England on bouncier pitches. I captained the other day [against Delhi] and having five men up was obviously different. And it’s tough to bowl on these wickets; there is always a boundary option for the batter. It’s about trying out your skills, and try and make as hard as you can for the opposition bat to get that boundary. And then as a batsman you try and get the opportunity that’s there. It’s about skill to nail the harder shots. And if you bowl well you can do it.”
Speaking about his young side, Cook said, “Yeah, I think it’s still good in one way. We have got an inexperienced side, a few experienced players missing through injuries and rotational policy. It’s quite similar to probably the squad that we had the last time we were here. So, it will be a real big test to us as players and real good test to these guys who have been around now a bit in international scene to try and step up to the next level.”
Among other new things the visitors also have a new coach for the one-day side. “[Ashley] Giles has done well. It’s obviously been testing conditions for him so far. Very early days but he has done well. These things take time for him to get used to everyone but I think he is an excellent coach,” he said.
As they kick start the new year with a young side and a new coach, England have their sights set high and look to improve in the shorter format as they move forward.
“We will be looking to improve like any side. It will be a test for us to see whether we have improved or not. It will be good to see if we are improving as players. If we can improve here than it will be good as we move on to the Champions Trophy and the World Cup.”
“I am very poor with numbers. In one-day cricket, a year or so we really had some good results. So think we are heading in the right direction,” he added.
“Yeah, I think it’s very important. I don’t think we have any 50-over ICC tournament as an England side. So as a group of players, having tuned to your home and in conditions which we are comfortable, we will try and win that. So, it’s very high on our priority.”