“Excuse me!!! Excuse me!!!! Not here please, not here!!!”
I looked up at Grace Road nets to see Coach Duncan Fletcher, politely smiling (we go back a long way to his England days) making it clear, that my camera man and I were not welcome to film net practice….
”No doubt about it”, as he often said as England Coach, India are in town and things are going to be different but that was fine, we got lots of shots of the team warming up on the outfield, for the first India package of the tour for Sky Sports News.
As England players were heading home for a bit, after dramatic Test defeat in Leeds, the mass of the India squad (there are 18 players on tour) were warming up for their five-match series which starts at Trent Bridge on July 9th; between now and then they have two warm-up games, against Leicestershire and Derbyshire.
Captain MS Dhoni and Fletcher held a news conference before afternoon practice, which was inevitably dominated by reaction to England’s performances, and the form of Alastair Cook.
MS Dhoni says England will still be the favourites despite their recent setbacks, and still regards them as formidable opponents in this time of transition, because they are in their own back yard.
It was fascinating to hear his views on the challenge Cook faces to lead from the front, as a captain now for getting on for seven years. He says first and foremost he is a player, and everything flows from good form, to earn the respect and backing of players. Cook has that because of all he has achieved as a batsman, and when that returns, he says so will confidence as captain.
Fletcher backed the troubled England captain, very much with the “form is temporary, class is permanent” school of thought.
As England Coach he watched Cook score a Test match hundred on debut, in India, and has no doubts he can come through his lean spell to lead from the front.
The East Midlands is India’s home for the build-up, and they will get great local support; Leicester as a first tour venue suits them nicely. It should be a good three days, and I’ll be providing live reports throughout with action, as we look closely at England’s next opponents.
England and India have much in common: they are both teams in transition, looking to get back to winning ways.
Watch England and India contest the first of five Tests this summer live on Sky Sports from July 9.