AUSSIES' DEMISE IS A WARNING FOR ENGLAND; Done It! India Celebrate Victory over Australia
Byline: PAUL NEWMAN
ANYONE who watched a batsman with a Test average of 117 in India practising with England here yesterday must have assumed he was Kevin Pietersen's surprise weapon in combating a team who have just condemned Australia to their heaviest Test series defeat for 20 years.
Sadly, the man in question will form no part of England's batting line-up during the next six testing weeks.
Andy Flower, who excelled in India during his outstanding Zimbabwe career, made a rare appearance in the England nets, looking just as fit and able as a 40-year-old assistant coach as he did while becoming one of the best batsmen of his generation. And how England will need their top six to take a leaf out of Flower's book if they are to thrive against an India team who completed their comprehensive 2-0 victory over Australia with a 172-run win in Nagpur yesterday.
Anil Kumble may have retired but in Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra, the impressive new leg-spinner, India have two slow bowlers who raised questions that Australia could not answer in their four-match series.
They also have a fast bowler in Ishant Sharma who has taken on the mantle of India's strike bowler so effectively that he was voted man of the series.
Their efforts, combined with a peculiar display of captaincy from Ricky Ponting, which has attracted criticism from the great Allan Border, leave Australia looking more vulnerable eight months before the Ashes than they have done since their last defeat, against England in 2005. Unfortunately, England must first play India, galvanised by the leadership of MS Dhoni and as hard to beat on home soil as ever.
So, Andy, how do you become successful in a country where England have not won a Test series for 24 years, where they lost 5-1 in the last one-day series and where even the mighty Australia have now lost twice in their last three series? 'I found all the noise and excitement of a game in India great,' said Flower.
'Some things can go on here but I didn't associate the atmosphere with pressure, just pleasure. The same rules apply here as they do anywhere. You must play each ball as carefully and confidently as you can. You develop a method that is good for you and work to your strengths.' The strengths of Flower, who was an outstanding sweeper of the ball and particularly good against spin, could not be more different from those of Andrew Flintoff, whose 'block it or whack it' methods have not appeared to change much over the years. …