November 16, 2001

Fletcher ponders England team selection


The England coach Duncan Fletcher will sit down tomorrow with captain Nasser Hussain for a conference call with chairman of selectors David Graveney.

The absence of Darren Gough, Andrew Caddick and Robert Croft has left England's bowling attack short of Test experience. While they have over 400 Test wickets between them, the five bowlers available for Sunday's two-day tour opener against a Mumbai Cricket Association President's XI share just three caps between them.

Ashley Giles, who has played in eight Tests, will not play, having just returned after an Achilles injury.

Fletcher is not planning to consider wicketkeeper James Foster, who has shown promising batting form for Essex including a half-century against the Australians last summer, for the number six position.

The greenish pitch at the Wankhede Stadium is likely to provide early assistance for the seamers. Mohali, where the first Test starts on December 3rd, is similar in early morning conditions.

"It will be a very good chance that it will be the strongest side that we can put out," said Fletcher. "We will have to have a good look at the wicket.

"There are a few inexperienced guys who we might have to call on in the Test matches. With the way this tour is structured, we might have to have a look at them in the second match of the tour.

"We will have to see who fits in and what are the obvious prospects for the first Test. In terms of building towards that, every day that goes by we might have to reassess."

Six batsmen will play on Sunday - with Usman Afzaal the one likely to miss out -- and Foster seems likely to get the nod over the more experienced Warren Hegg.

All-rounder Craig White may be considered for the top six in this series, with either James Ormond or Richard Johnson to open the bowling with Matthew Hoggard. Off-spinner Richard Dawson is likely to make his England debut in front of Martyn Ball.

Of those two spinners Fletcher said: "We definitely need to learn more about them. I have been watching them in the nets and trying to see how our players play them - to get some feel of how the batters react to how they bowl.

"The wicketkeeper won't bat in the top six, he hasn't got the experience to bat up there. He is not an experienced all-rounder and there is no substitute for experience.

"At the moment it has got be a possibility that Craig White bats in the top six, we have to keep our eye on it. We have to see the bottom, from numbers seven to 11 as the main problem.

"We picked the best 16 players available in all areas and now we will have to see how they react to different conditions to those they play in when they are in the UK.

"Can they play both sides of the wicket and can they play on these type of wickets? We will find out in the middle."