November 21, 2001

A secure England takes on a confident Board President's XI

The touring English team will take on an Indian Board President's XI, in a three-day match at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad, starting on Thursday.

Most of the top English batsmen have run into some good form in their last game, played in Mumbai. Two batsmen who didn't have a good game against Mumbai Cricket Association Board President's XI are Mark Butcher and Michael Vaughan and they would be hoping to use this match to regain their touch.

The English squad had a net session in the morning. They have though not given any clue about the composition of their final eleven. The latest addition to the squad, Andrew Flintoff, has not arrived in Hyderabad and looks set to play only in the match against India 'A' at Jaipur. England will possibly play wicketkeeper Warren Hegg ahead of James Foster.

The pitch at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium looks to be a sleeping beauty. The young fast bowler from Kerala, Tinu Yohannan lamented, "There is not even a blade of grass on this track." Meanwhile, the weather here is crisp and slightly warm, nothing like the sultry conditions one encounters in the coastal cities like Mumbai and Chennai.

Madan Lal, the Manager of the Board President's XI, who incidentally is also a national selector, was at the nets with his boys in the afternoon. He had a close look at Rohan Gavaskar and Murali Kartik among others. Speaking to CricInfo, Madan Lal said that the final eleven had been more or less decided, and Rakesh Patel, Irfan Pathan and RV Dhruv will miss out. The team is still awaiting the arrival of off-spinner Sarandeep Singh and the medium-pacer from Jammu and Kashmir, Surendra Singh.

Tinu Yohannan was working up impressive pace in the nets; the tall and lean fast bowler has caught the attention of Madan Lal, a former India fast bowler himself. Madan Lal, as a matter of fact , shared ten second innings wickets with Kapil Dev against Keith Fletcher's England in the Mumbai Test and took India to a Test Victory, some 19 years ago.

Madan Lal was of the opinion that none of the players are on trial in Hyderabad, "Sarandeep Singh has been amongst wickets this season and his form has been phenomenal, there is a good chance that he will be the third spinner in the Indian Test team against England."

The former India coach was of the opinion that Rohan Gavaskar is a very good batsman and it is a matter of time before he starts scoring heavily and is in contention for a place in the national squad. Sridharan Sriram who had a wonderful time with the bat against a visiting Sri Lankan XI in the MJ Gopalan Trophy will also try to press hard for the opener's slot in the national side. Madan Lal says, "The opening position and an extra spin bowler's slot has been vacant in the national side for quite a while now, it is for the players to grab the opportunity."

Pankaj Dharmani and Murali Kartik will have to prove their mettle against the visitors to be in national reckoning, given the competition for positions in the national squad.

The controversy surrounding the disciplinary action taken against six Indian players in South Africa has evoked strong emotions in this sportloving city too.

Incidentally, Mike Denness the ICC match referee who is caught in the eye of the storm in South Africa, played in a three-day match against Indian Board Pesident's XI in 1972 (Dec 2-4) at Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad. In those days, the top players in the country represented the Board President's XI and a 22-year-old Sunil Manohar Gavaskar scored 86 to take Board President's XI to 317/5 decl. In reply, the England XI made 321/7 declared, Denness making a sparkling 95 and DL Amiss making 81 against a bowling attack that comprised of Abid Ali (2/74) and EAS Prasanna (3/109).

England (from): Nasser Hussain (capt), Usman Afzaal, Martyn Ball, Mark Butcher, Marcus Trescothick, Graham Thorpe, Michael Vaughan, Mark Ramprakash, Richard Dawson, James Foster, Ashley Giles, Warren Hegg, Richard Johnson, Matthew Hoggard, James Ormond, Craig White.

Board President's XI (from): Jacob Martin (capt), Irfan Pathan, Rakesh Patel, Wasim Jaffer, Sridharan Sriram, Dinesh Mongia, Pankaj Dharmani, Sanjay Bangar, Murali Kartik, Rohan Gavaskar, Tinu Yohannan, Sharandeep Singh, Surender Singh.