Ahmedabad: What are England's chances this time around? How is the mood in the camp after Kevin Pietersen's return? And what do they make of India's strategy of not fielding a spinner worth his salt in any of the practice games? All six players fielded by England for the media interaction on Tuesdayhad these three questions fired at them repeatedly, and all of them had more or less the same response.
England seem quite convinced that it's their best opportunity to end their wretched record in India - they last won a series almost 28 years ago and since then have won just one Test. While some said it straight up, others expressed optimism with some caution, but that quiet confidence and hopefulness was unmistakable in their tone and demeanor.
This belief stems as much from their ability and preparedness as from India's current state of flux. “The likes of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are no longer there and I reckon that famous middle order would be a little fragile without them. This gives us a huge opportunity,” said Samit Patel.
Graham Onions, the pacer on a comeback trail, acknowledged that the bowlers would breathe a little easy, knowing they don't have to bowl to the great middle order, but felt India were still a good side. “Those who have stepped into their shoes are also good. (Cheteshwar) Pujara showed in the practice game how good a player he is. And Sachin Tendulkar is still around. So, it's going to be good contest,” he said.
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England have been diligent in their preparation. Having arrived 15 days before the first Test, they are scheduled to play a third warm-up game before the series. They held a short camp in Dubai and simulated conditions they are likely to get in India.
And that's probably why they are least bothered about being denied any opportunity to bat against specialist spinners so far.
“It doesn't make any difference. We have had our preparations, we are learning every day and our skill levels against spin are improving. And hopefully we will be able to show that in this series,” said Patel.
Surprisingly, there was no hint of frustration at the 'no-spinner' tactics. “It's not up to us to choose the opposition and players we want to play against. All we can do is prepare our best and win the game. That's all we are focusing on.”
Their response couldn't have been more similar when it came to talking about Pietersen. It was apparent they had done their homework. All of them parroted how happy the team was to have him back and how everyone was hoping for him to do well. The camaraderie would have appeared more genuine had KP been singing the same tune alongside them.
As of now, England have kept KP away from the Indian media, just as India have kept spinners away from the visitors.