ENGLAND captain Alastair Cook has urged his team to capitalise on the weight of expectation burdening the hosts as he attempts to mastermind a first Test series win in India for 27 years today.
Cook could hardly have wished for a more challenging start to his tenure as permanent skipper, while the task has been complicated further by seamer Steven Finn’s absence through injury.
But the 27-year-old Essex opener insisted yesterday that the tourists could turn their underdog status to their advantage when the first of four Tests begins in Ahmedabad.
“There’s a lot of pressure, especially here in India, on the home team. But one thing they seem to have done over the years is cope with that. They have an excellent home record. So history says they can deal with pressure,” said Cook.
“Our job is to put them under some pressure. We are ready – that’s part of the reason we came out for three-and-a-half weeks, to be ready. The proof of the pudding will be over these next four Test matches.”
Cook assumed the reigns following the retirement of Andrew Strauss in the summer, after England lost their No1 Test ranking to South Africa in a turbulent home series defeat. His prolific run-making has long made him a key figure in the team, but Cook acknowledges his long-anticipated ascent to captain has affected both his mindset and dressing-room dynamics.
“I’m just going to try to do the best job I can, for however long I’m lucky enough to do it. You can’t change who you are, the type of bloke you are, and you’ve got to be authentic to who you are,” he added.
“It clearly does change things in the dressing room. When you’re in a position of responsibility you think about things in a different way and have different things on your agenda. But I hope I don’t change.”
The loss of Finn is tempered by the return of Stuart Broad from a heel injury, while batsman Kevin Pietersen is set to play his first Test since his infamous row with England chiefs over text messages.
Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan is expected to take Finn’s place in a three-man seam attack with James Anderson and Broad, while Graeme Swann leads spin-bowling duties with occasional help from all-rounder Samit Patel.
Test debutant Nick Compton looks to have won the tussle with fellow international newcomer Joe Root to take over Strauss’s batting duties and open with Cook, having impressed in the second and third warm-up matches.