India v England, 2nd ODI, Kochi January 14, 2013

Complacency should not be an issue

Alastair Cook is well aware that all England have done so far in the one-day series is win a single match

It says much for the shifting balance of power that the England captain, Alastair Cook, was even asked about the dangers of complacency ahead of the second one-day of the series against India.

A year ago, as England licked their wounds after a humbling 5-0 ODI whitewash such a question would have been unthinkable. Even now, with one victory in the last six years, it seems laughably premature to raise such a thought. Whatever England's challenges in the coming months, guarding against complacency should not be among them.

As the only major Test-playing nation not to have won a global 50-over event and with a record in Asia that, despite recent improvements, remains grim, England know they have plenty of hard work ahead of them if they are to fulfil their lofty ambitions. They are heading in the right direction, but they have a long journey ahead.

Nor is complacency the way of this England side. Cook did not become the youngest man in history to 7,000 Test runs through any sense of self-satisfaction; Ashley Giles has not just been promoted to an international coaching role to see his unit coast; Ian Bell has not won an ODI recall only to waste it and the likes of Craig Kieswetter, Samit Patel and Tim Bresnan are all under pressure to justify their continuing selection beyond their series. Wherever you look in this England squad, you will find motivation. Just about every one of them has a question to answer.

It is worth remembering how tight the margins between success and failure were in the first ODI, too. England were reliant on Patel thrashing 38 from the final two overs and Joe Root delivering nine relatively frugal overs to deliver a narrow victory. Such exceptional performances cannot be relied upon as the norm.

Root is a talented cricketer with a strong work ethic, but it is asking a great deal of him to make the leap from part-time county bowler - he claimed one wicket in the lower division of the 2012 County Championship - to becoming the man to fill holes in an international attack.

Cook knows all this. He has admitted on several occasions that England have been somewhat flattered by the speed with which they assumed the No. 1 ranking in ODI cricket and he knows that, until that global trophy is secured, his side's improvements - pleasing though there are - will count for little.

"Let's not get too carried away," Cook said ahead of Kochi encounter. "We've played one game in this series. We enjoyed the other night because we won. But it's a game of fine margins. We are going to have to do the same in the remaining games.

"India are a world-class side and statistics show how hard it is to win here, but we're prepared for that. We will have to keep up our skills and our standard of performances if we want to win this game and the series."

One area where England have dominated through most of the Test series and in the first ODI was in spin bowling. While the success of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar in the Test series might have been grudgingly accepted by the hosts, to see England's stand-in offspinner, James Tredwell, maintain the dominance will have stung.

Tredwell, in many ways the antithesis of the glamorous superstars that abound in Indian cricket, produced the sort of disciplined, skilful display he has so regularly for Kent to claim four top-order wickets and the Man-of-the-Match award. Rarely has substance trounced style so convincingly. As Cook said, "It just proves that that experience you gain in county cricket can bode well in international cricket."

Perhaps India may reflect on that. County cricket provided valuable experience for the likes of Kapil Dev, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. More recently Zaheer Khan owed his international revival, in part, to a spell with Worcestershire. No doubt all would have 'made it' without the county game, but every one of them also credits it for helping their development. The BCCI might do well to take note with regard the new generation of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara et al.

India are far from out of this series. England remain too reliant on part-time bowlers for comfort and the hosts will surely attempt to target Root and, perhaps, Tredwell in the rest of the series. But if England's spinners continue to out-perform India's, it may prove tough for the hosts to claw their way back.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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