'We need to start from scratch' - Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's captain, has said his team has only been focusing on maintaining the intensity from a successful last couple of months. Dhoni conceded England had a better fast-bowling attack, but countered by saying that India's batting juggernaut and the 5-0 ODI success put the home side in a good position.
"It does not matter which opposition we are playing. You have to be aggressive in international cricket, it has to be controlled," he said in Chennai. "The focus should be on execution of plans, and if we can execute them on the field to our potential we have a good chance of doing well. We have got the plans, and the preparation and execution have been good. We need to focus on that. We need to start from scratch and do the good things that we have done in the one-day series."
While most of India's players went home to visit family or played in domestic cricket, England return for the Tests short of practice. Rain hampered their preparations in Abu Dhabi and the only warm-up game was cancelled for security issues. "They got time off in between and they must have planned a few things," said Dhoni. "They are a better bowling side, and at the same time our batsmen are in good nick and we have been doing the basics right."
Yuvraj Singh has been given one more chance to resurrect his stop-start Test career. He muscled his way back into contention with two successive one-day hundreds against England but Dhoni cautioned him against filling Sourav Ganguly's place at No. 6. "The biggest fault will be if he tries to fill the shoes of Ganguly. He should be himself," said Dhoni. "He is a very different individual. His game plan is different and he plays in a different way. We don't want him to fill in the shoes of someone.
"He is in good nick and he just needs to continue with that. He can be a part-time bowler as well. The SG ball does a bit and if he can put it in the right areas he can have an impact on the game."
The one glaring blot in India's batting line-up is Rahul Dravid, who has only two half-centuries in his previous 17 innings. But like Kris Srikkanth, India's chairman of selectors, Dhoni felt Dravid was "just one innings away from regaining form". "He has been shaping up really well in the net sessions," he said. "We know the amount of talent he has got, and he is also one the most committed cricketers around. He will definitely get scores in the series."
India were undecided on their XI. Dhoni felt the spinners would get assistance from the Chennai pitch. He said it was an opportunity for the youngsters to gain experience, and that those who read the game well would "come out as winners".
While a couple of England players have spoken about a "duty to the game", Dhoni said such talk did not affect India, who just had to concentrate on cricket. "It is up to them to come [back to India]. We have an important series to play. The best thing that I could give to India in this juncture is a good game of cricket. That is what we are here to do as professional cricketers."