ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
India v England, Group B, World Cup 2011, Bangalore
We'd love to spoil an Indian party - Strauss
Liam Brickhill in Bangalore
February 26, 2011
England's game against India has been billed as a marquee encounter and the pre-match hype, particularly in the host city of Bangalore, has already reached frenzied levels. England captain Andrew Strauss admitted "huge anticipation" ahead of the game but also believes it will inspire Kevin Pietersen, who is potentially England's game-changer at the top of the order but made a subdued start to the tournament against Netherlands. With expectations on the home side running high, Strauss added: "we'd love to spoil an Indian party here in Bangalore."
"It's going to be a huge atmosphere," he said. "It's one of those games that everyone dreams of playing, against India at the World Cup on their home turf. It's a great opportunity for us and one that we're very excited about. [A win] would potentially be a huge lift for us, and it would send out a pretty strong marker to other sides. But we've got to do it first. We've got to concentrate on the process of doing it."
The build-up to this game has put the spotlight on players on both sides but Pietersen, who scored a century in England's last game against India in November 2008 but hasn't managed one in ODIs since, is one player who won't mind that one bit. Strauss suggested that "it's the sort of match that brings out the best in him".
"Opening the batting is giving him [Pietersen] a fresh outlook on his one-day cricket, and hopefully he'll transform that into big runs as well," Strauss said. "He's performed well in the subcontinent before. He obviously knows this wicket well because he's played in the IPL here, and in the big matches and big tournaments generally we see the best of Kevin Pietersen."
Pietersen has averaged just 22.13 in ODIs since that Cuttack ton but Strauss insisted he had no doubts over his effectiveness in one-day cricket and that the team expected him to perform.
"I don't think it's the time to take the pressure off. It's a World Cup and we all need to stand up and perform, he knows that as well as anyone else. We know what he can bring to our side when he does perform, because he's a match-winning player and one that other sides will fear. I've got no issues, I'm very confident he's going to put in some telling performances in the course of this World Cup."
Even with a fully-firing Pietersen, England are sure to face a stern challenge from an Indian team on familiar terrain and primed to go the distance in this tournament, backed by fervent home support. "Playing India in their home conditions, that's always a big challenge for you as a side," admitted Strauss, "but we're up for that challenge, and we think we can do well. It's not something we're overawed about, it's something we're excited about.
"They're a strong side in their home conditions, there's no doubt about that. We played well against them in England, but not in India. But we've evolved a lot as a side in the last 12 to 24 months. We'll take a lot of confidence from how the guys played in the Twenty20 World Cup, playing under pressure, and our bowlers are a lot smarter now, which is probably crucial out here. We need to play well, we're under no illusions about that, but there's a real vibe and excitement and enthusiasm that I hope the guys will bring to the pitch tomorrow afternoon."
Speaking of the pitch, Strauss explained that the England set-up had been fed conflicting reports on how the wicket at the Chinnaswamy Stadium will play, and unseasonal rainfall in the city hasn't helped their assessment. The warm-up matches at the ground, and particularly India's game against Australia, suggested conditions could suit the spinners. Strauss said England would have to "tailor our side to the conditions that we think are going to be most prevalent. We probably won't know that until tomorrow morning".
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Strauss did hint England could follow the trend already set by several teams and play more than one spinner and possibly even give the new ball to one of the slow bowlers. "It's definitely an option," he said. "If it's going to turn like it did in the warm-up game then two spinners are also going to be a very strong option for us. But it's important not to be too blinkered into assuming that it's going to do something. There's a bit of weather around at the moment so that might change the look of the wicket and we're going to have to make a smart choice at the toss."
The city was drenched by a torrential downpour on Friday, and while Saturday was muggy but rain-free, a thick cover of cloud remained and there's a chance the weather could play a role on Sunday. With that in mind, Strauss suggested England might opt for the relative safety of chasing with an eye on the Duckworth-Lewis tables.
"That's always an option when there's rain around. It's better to know the situation than not to know. But we'll assess the conditions at the toss. It's too early to say anything categorically at this stage. In terms of the conditions, I always think you want to be the man making the choice [at the toss]. The key is to assess the conditions before the game starts and hopefully we'll be able to do that over the next 24 hours."
While it would be a shame for the weather to dampen what could be an intense and emotional encounter, the threat of a storm could also add to the drama sure to unfold in front of a 'housefull' stadium. The ground is sure to be packed to the rafters despite the continuing furore over tickets and the deafening shouts of 40,000 energized spectators will make it a challenge for Strauss to maintain control in the field.
"There's going to be a lot of sign language involved, I think. It's something we've definitely talked about. Trying to get people's attention is going to be difficult, so people are going to have to keep their eyes on me. Fielders are going to have to be smart too, knowing when they should be saving two or when they need to be right on the boundary. These are things we try to do day in and day out, so hopefully it shouldn't be too different."
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