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Miles Jupp: England must deal with India before their summer

November 15th, 2008 by Miles Jupp in England, International and tagged , ,

Alongside the grim reports of England’s recent contests, there has been a terrifying amount of optimistic chat about the Ashes. Early last week, one paper started its countdown. “Slow down!” I thought, and went home to see that England had again been bowled out for under a hundred, as if to demonstrate just how quickly the pressure gets to them.

Ashes talk and thought this early can only cloud England’s judgement, and they’ve recently shown a tendency to be easily distracted. The best way that they could prepare for next summer’s series is to apply themselves to the tricky repair job immediately ahead of them this winter.

To do that they need to take things “one day at a time”, as people are told in recovery programmes. But the first step of recovery is admitting that you’ve got a problem in the first place, and that’s not something KP is always keen to do. “This really doesn’t matter,” he said after the 124-run defeat to Mumbai on Tuesday. That may seem like a flippant or thoughtless thing to say but at least it’s honest.

He’s right, of course. That game didn’t matter. The first ODI should have done, though; but still there seemed little concern about being on the end of such a brutal defeat. It may be that because the series is so stupidly long, England feel justified in treating the first couple of games as an opportunity for an extended warm-up. After all, if we win just two of the remaining six, we’ll have done better than last time. I certainly don’t doubt that the team have arrived in a determined state of mind – Graeme Swann’s even had his haircut. And Flintoff’s century in Mumbai ought to keep us cheery for a bit longer.

But England will know that a tour of India is tough. I followed the last one, scratching around for some press work. “What are you actually here for?” asked one former England captain. “Oh just a bit of gentle journalism,” I said. “Nothing’s gentle here,” he told me.

We had an injury crisis and a mass exodus before the internationals had even started. (Vaughan, Jones S, Trescothick, Anderson, and Harmison all couldn’t play). But despite that - in the Tests at least - we did well, and we did so by the patient application of the basics. Collingwood scored the most runs for us and both he and Cook made their first Test hundreds in Nagpur. It’s also where Monty played his first game and memorably claimed Tendulkar’s wicket as his debut scalp.

Everybody in the squad will have to play their part though, and not just because of injuries. It is undeniable that the English - supporters, journalists, commentators and players – have a tendency to get ill there. Being well enough to get onto the team bus is no guarantee that you’ll be fit to play by the time you reach the ground. If you think Harmison sprays it around out in the middle you should see him during the tea interval. Yet despite this, and the crippling heat, people are expected to run in and bowl at 90mph.

This is why the most demanding and unsung role for a squad member is 12th man. If we’re fielding he’ll probably be on the field for at least half of the play and spend the rest of the time mixing fresh isotonic drinks and ferrying them around the boundary. Drinks, towels or ice packs are summoned about once every other over when we’re batting, which can leave the 12th man spending entire sessions of play doing extended shuttle runs.

In 2006 at Mumbai, Andrew Strauss spent just under five and a half hours at the crease compiling his 128 but it was Ian Blackwell who looked the more shattered by the experience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human look more exhausted. That might even have been the day he picked up his shoulder injury, a touch of repetitive strain injury, perhaps, from opening the pavilion gate too often.

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