Mumbai: While Alastair Cook on Saturday admitted that playing the number one side in their backyard is a challenge, he backed the “underdog” England team to do well in the five-match Test series against India.
“It is a big challenge. Playing against the number one or two side in the world in their backyard, in conditions comfortable for them, is a huge task for us. It is a huge challenge for this group of cricketers. But in the last couple of years, we have always exceeded the expectations. We have played really good cricket in the big series. Last year, we went to South Africa and won away from home when they were the number one side in the world,” said Cook.
“Yes, it is a different condition (in India) but we are under no illusions of how hard it could be. We are underdogs and that takes a lot of pressure off us,” added the England skipper.
Cook, who played a pivotal part in England’s 2-1 series in India in 2012-13 and averages 54 in 20 Tests against India, revealed how England, under his captaincy, turned it around in the last series in India despite losing the first Test in Ahmedabad.
"I remember sitting in a press conference after the first Test and everyone was talking about how you're going to stop India winning 4-0 and we managed to turn it around and win 2-1.”
England received a major boost on Saturday after it was confirmed that James Anderson will be in India. While Anderson's presence makes England bowling attack stronger, their batsmen must improve their game against spin. More so, after a lucky 1-1 draw against Bangladesh where the young Mehedi Hasan Miraz and Shakib Al Hasan ran through the England batting line-up.
Cook admitted that he must make some tough calls while selecting the team.
“We have got some big selection calls to make. The process has started, like always, when two games have happened and the things might not have gone the way we have liked. We have to throw ideas around and hopefully be clear when we go to Rajkot.”
Although England’s batsmen upping the game against R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra will play a big part in team’s performance, how England spinners – Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Gareth Batty and Zafar Ansari – bowl will also determine how England fare in the series.
The last time when England trumped India in their home conditions, they had the services of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. While Swann has retired and Monty is no longer a part of England side, Cook believed the spin quartet can spring a surprise.
“It is a very different bowling (spin) attack. Swanny and Monty, four years ago, were at the peak of their powers. Monty did an outstanding job in the three Tests he played. He held an end and bowled consistently well for us. Unfortunately we haven't quite got that experience of probably top quality spinners,” said Cook.
"(But) Mo (Moeen Ali) has been very successful against India in the past. Rashid (Adil Rashid) has done very well in One Day Cricket and we probably haven't seen the best of him in Test cricket yet. (So) we've actually got more options in this squad than we did in the last squad," concluded Cook.