'Our first task is to try and force them to follow on' - Shah
Owais Shah, the England debutant included in the team after Alastair Cook's eleventh-hour withdrawal, said the last-minute call didn't induce any butterflies. "I never thought I would play in the series after Alastair's century on debut," he told a press conference. "Since he was scheduled to play over the last two or three days there was no chance of becoming nervous on the eve of the match as I was told I am playing only a few hours before the match."
On his team's strategy, Shah said, "the basic plan was to keep them on the field as far as we can." He said batting in the second innings would be a tough ask, although the wicket had not yet showed any signs of affording turn to the slow bowlers.
"But what will happen over the next two days cannot be predicted," he added. "It will be a tough task to bat against the two world-class spinners [Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble]. But our first task is to try and force them to follow on."
Shah said the batting lessons he received from the former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin when he came to India in 2004 had helped him launch his Test career with a flourish. Shah, who made 88 in England's first innings score of 400, said Azharuddin's tips were invaluable and he had stuck to them diligently. "I came down to India after hearing Azhar was opening a cricket academy," he said. "He put me up in a hotel for ten days and gave me batting lessons and after going back to England I stuck to these. They helped me here."
He added that the example of Australia's Mike Hussey, who made runs by the tons in domestic cricket to force his way into the national squad, was an inspiration to him. "I have seen people like Mike Hussey not getting a chance to play for Australia for years together. He scored heavily and got into the team. I knew that I would get an opportunity to play for England one day and that I should try and get as many runs as I can [in English county cricket]. The selection is not in my hands."
Shah had to retire yesterday owing to cramps in both hands and he said the experience had taught him to take more fluids today to avoid getting dehydrated. "I sweat a lot and get cramps in my hands. I learned the lessons of yesterday and made sure I was high on hydration today."
He dismissed the pleasantries exchanged with Indian pacers Munaf Patel and Sreesanth as light banter. "It was all in good spirit."