It's a straight knockout between Compton and Root to partner Cook
22:00 GMT, 2 November 2012
England will move a step closer to resolving the identity of Alastair Cook’s Test opening partner in India as Nick Compton and Joe Root go head to head over the next three days.
With Cook sitting out the tourists’ second warm-up match against Mumbai A following his watchful 119 against India A earlier this week, the scene is set for a shootout between Compton and Root as both men aim to win their first Test cap at Ahmedabad on November 15.
Compton was out third ball for a duck on Wednesday, while Root has been selected for his first game of the tour. And Cook – whose absence means the captaincy passes to Stuart Broad – will be following events with interest.
Ton-derful: Cook (left) will sit out the second warm-up after a century against India A
‘We will decide on the basis of this game and the next,’ he said. ‘It’s a cut-throat business. You’re trying to pick the best player to do the job, and they’ve both got a chance to score runs and push their claim.’
England say they arrived in India with no pecking order in mind – not least because neither Cook nor coach Andy Flower have seen much of the two candidates.
The possibility of moving Jonathan Trott up to open from No 3 has been ruled out. But, even so, the choice is not straightforward.
The 29-year-old Compton was the leading run-scorer in English first-class cricket last summer, averaging nearly 100 for Somerset.
In contrast, Root has been picked mainly on potential: at 21, his c.v. is limited to four first-class hundreds for Yorkshire and England Lions.
Potential: Root has impressed the selectors with his form for Yorkshire
‘Joe wouldn’t be in the squad if we didn’t think he was ready to play,’ said Cook.
‘But they’re at different stages of their career. One’s far more experienced and has got more runs behind him. The other one’s a lot younger and has impressed everyone at every stage of his career. We’re still waiting to see.’
It’s to England’s credit that only the second opener’s role and the make-up of their seam attack remain potential headaches.
Cook claimed that Steven Finn, who is undergoing rehab on a thigh strain, could yet play in the first Test even if he fails to recover in time for the third and final warm-up game in Ahmedabad starting on Thursday – but only if he bowls sufficient overs in the nets.
That leaves the inevitable question of Kevin Pietersen, who has received backing from Graeme Swann.
Duck: Compton failed to trouble the scorers in the warm-up match against India A
Not one to count himself among
Pietersen’s closest friends, Swann claimed: ‘Kevin’s reintegration has
been a seamless process and it needed to happen.
‘Everyone was wondering how it would go and whether it would be as easy as it has been, but a lot of credit has to be given to Kevin for the way he has come in. The dressing room has been a very happy place this week. And that’s what we need to be if we are going to have a chance of beating India.’
That task will not have been made any easier by the news that Sachin Tendulkar cast aside a run of bad form on Friday with a superb 137 off 136 balls in the Ranji Trophy for Mumbai against Railways.
There has been speculation about Tendulkar’s future, especially after he was bowled three times out of three in the recent home Test series against New Zealand, then managed only 52 runs in five innings for Mumbai Indians in the Twenty20 Champions League in South Africa.
Chewing the fat: Cook and Swann (above right) were speaking alongside Indian batting legend Sourav Ganguly (below left)
Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly has weighed into the debate, insisting it is up to Tendulkar, 39, to make the call himself.
‘We all know he doesn’t have a lot of cricket left, but I think after everything he’s achieved – with 100 international hundreds – we should let him take that call,’ said Ganguly.
Tendulkar looked in excellent form at the Wankhede Stadium, crashing 21 fours and three sixes in his first hundred in first-class cricket since January 2011.
If England were hoping the most prolific Test batsman of all time had become a weak link, they can think again.
Alastair Cook, Graeme Swann and Sourav Ganguly were speaking at a business event in Mumbai to promote Jaguar www.jaguar.com and Castrol Edge www.castrolcricket.com