ENGLAND captain Andrew Strauss insists his team’s precarious status as the world’s No1 Test side is not on his mind as he prepares to lead them in the first match against Sri Lanka today.
A series whitewash defeat to Pakistan earlier this year has weakened England’s grip on top spot, with South Africa, the outfit best placed to dethrone them, set to tour these shores in the summer.
Another loss in Sri Lanka, where England have won just three Tests in 30 years, would threaten their position further, but Strauss is more concerned with responding to a mixed start to 2012.
“I think we’ve obviously got a point to prove. We have to bounce back after those results against Pakistan,” he said, ahead of the first match of a two-Test series, which begins early this morning in Galle.
“We are not focusing on the world rankings at the moment; it is not of great consequence to us. I think if you focus too much on that, you take out what’s important, which is trying to win.
“We know the extent of the challenge. We’ve got to be very good to overcome those challenges. There is plenty for us to focus on and the rankings will take care of themselves.”
Strauss was yesterday agonising over whether to include all-rounder Ravi Bopara as a specialist batsman, with the Essex star unable to bowl due to a side strain, or an extra bowler – either spinner Samit Patel or seamer Tim Bresnan.
He has also been given cause for concern by Ian Bell, who was the only batsman to fail to shine during two warm-up victories and also toiled without success against Pakistan in the Middle East.
Paceman Stuart Broad has been passed fit to play, however, despite suffering an ankle sprain last week and sitting out training on Saturday.
England have toiled previously in the demanding conditions in Sri Lanka – failing to win a Test on each of their last two visits – where temperatures last week reached 46C and humidity 80 per cent.