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Alastair Cook gets support from an unlikely quarter

Addressing a press conference, India skipper Dhoni said England are still a tough side to beat.

Alastair Cook, who played a major role in England's 4-0 rout of India in 2011, was out of sorts against Sri Lanka (Source: Reuters) Alastair Cook, who played a major role in England’s 4-0 rout of India in 2011, was out of sorts against Sri Lanka (Source: Reuters)

ENGLAND might be a bit low in confidence after slumping to their first Test series loss to Sri Lanka on home soil, but Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni Wednesday said that his visiting side ill-affords to take them lightly in the upcoming five-match Test series.

Addressing a press conference on the eve of his side’s three-day warm-up game starting here Thursday, Dhoni said England are still a tough side to beat.

“What you assess is how good a side the opposition is and I still think England are a fantastic side. Which means it will be a tough competition for us and they know the home conditions better than us,” Dhoni said at his first press conference after arriving in England.

Asked if it was a good time to play England who suffered 0-1 series loss against visiting Sri Lanka on Tuesday, Dhoni said, “No, not really.”

Unlike in 2011 when India only played one tour match before the Test series, this time they are playing two and arrived nearly three weeks before the first Test. The extra time, according to Dhoni, provided the inexperienced players to get acclimatised to the conditions.

“It’s a long series, five Test matches followed by five ODIs and one T20. Playing a series with five Test matches is something that’s entirely new for us,” he said.

Of the current 18-member Indian squad only Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma have played a Test match in England. But Dhoni said that some of them have played some form of cricket in England and that experience may help them. “It’s always good to have players who have played in the scenario before. As I’ve said it’s a team that doesn’t have too many players that have played in England,” Dhoni said.

“The good thing is a lot of them have played some kind of cricket in England. There are quite a few who were part of the Champions Trophy. There are quite a few who have played in England in other leagues. All that really helps but it will be important for those players who have not played too many games to get used to the conditions really quickly. We’re here 15 to 20 days before the first Test so that will obviously help.”

Dhoni backs Cook

ASKED about his opposite number Alastair Cook whose poor form played a major role in England’s first Test series defeat to Sri Lanka on home soil, Dhoni said he expected the home side to back the beleaguered captain.

Cook, who played a major role in England’s 4-0 rout of India in 2011, was out of sorts against Sri Lanka. “A bad phase is something that every player goes through and you just need to back players at the right point because when you are getting those big hundreds and two-hundreds then everybody will be on your side,” Dhoni said.

“What’s important is for the media to realise what they were saying about him the last time we were here how well he has performed. “But the real test of character is when your fans or the media or your team-mates are supporting you when you are not doing well.”

India coach Duncan Fletcher said the inexperience of the new-look side might inspire the visiting team to play “exciting” cricket across the five-Test series beginning in Nottingham from July 9. He said the unpredictability was one of the strengths of this Indian side whose defining characteristic is youth.

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