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November 3, 2012
Alastair Cook has welcomed the competition for places in the England team ahead of selection for the first Test against India on November 15. England have question marks in several areas, the most pressing of those being who will open the batting with Cook in Ahmedabad.
By being picked for the opening tour match, it was felt Nick Compton was the preferred choice but his two single figure scores have eroded his advantage. Joe Root, although making only 28 in the first innings of the second tour match, at least spent time at the crease and demonstrated patience and solidity.
Cook said there is no possibility of Jonathan Trott moving up to open the batting, therefore the three tour matches have become a shoot-out between Compton and Root.
"It's a cut-throat business and they both have an opportunity to score runs and push their claim," Cook said. "They're at different stages of their career. One's far more experienced and has got more runs behind him. The other one's a lot younger and has impressed everyone at every stage of his career. We're still waiting to see so these are important days.
"It was totally open when we picked the squad. Andy Flower and I haven't seen a huge amount of either. I've played against Nick a couple of times, and I played in Joe Root's first ever game in 2009. It was important we came here with a clear mind and I think we've done that."
Cook's debut came as a 21-year-old on England's 2006 tour of India; he therefore knows the value of giving youth an opportunity. "Joe wouldn't be in the squad if we didn't think he was ready to play," Cook said. "My own situation was helped by the fact I'd been in Pakistan the tour before with the team as cover for somebody and got to know the England system better. Without that I'd have felt very uncomfortable turning up in Nagpur where I made my debut. But Joe's been here since the start of the tour and has got to know the lads."
With England choosing to add a debutant opener, they will retain their experienced middle order for the first Test of Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen, whose reintegration into the England squad was described by Graeme Swann as a "seamless progress".
"It needed to happen," Swann said. "Everyone was wondering how it would go and whether it would be as easy as it has been, but a lot of credit has to be given to Kevin for the way he has come in. It's just business as usual and the dressing room is a very happy place this week."
Pietersen was rested for the second tour match after making 23 against India A before falling to the left-arm spin of Yuvraj Singh. But his place in the Test side is assured and Swann said Pietersen's place among the team jokes has also returned. "In the changing room, no one is safe," Swann said. "KP's the butt of as many jokes as anyone else. He takes it fine, so it's great."
Pietersen's return leaves one batting spot available at No. 6 if England maintain their favoured four-man bowling attack. Samit Patel's form with the bat, a century against India A and an unbeaten 59 on day one at the Dr DY Patil Sports Academy, has all but cemented that spot.
Day two against Mumbai A will see the battle for a place in the bowling attack for the first Test take centre stage. An opening could be created if Steven Finn does not recover. Graeme Onions will look to stake his claim and Monty Panesar will hope to convince the selectors to revert to two specialist spinners, a policy England last employed in the UAE against Pakistan in January.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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