sport

Cook won't change approach

Alastair Cook has no intention of trying to change as he takes on the biggest job of his life - that of England Test captain.

Cook's challenges are manifold as England seek to confound most expectations by winning a series in India for the first time in almost 30 years.

He must lead from the front to try to ensure requisite totals, in a taxing and alien environment.

He must select and deploy his bowlers to take 20 wickets, and of course, there is the Kevin Pietersen conundrum - how will he man-manage England's most talented batsman on his return after a summer of vexation and estrangement?

Cook has already addressed all these issues publicly, on a tour already three weeks old since England set off for India, via Dubai.

But on Thursday, in the first of four Tests in Ahmedabad, his actions will have to speak louder than all those press-conference pronouncements.

Cook, who is yet to lead his country on a permanent basis in his new guise since taking over from Andrew Strauss three months ago, said: "I'm just going to try to do the best job I can, for however long I'm lucky enough to do it.

"You can't change who you are, the type of bloke you are, and you've got to be authentic to who you are."

He knows, through common sense and personal experience as England's one-day international captain, that there are adjustments to be made once you find yourself in charge.

"It clearly does change things in the dressing room," he added.

"When you're in a position of responsibility you think about things in a slightly different way and have different things on your agenda.

"But I hope I don't change.

"I feel a mixture of everything. Obviously, I'm a bit excited about what's going to happen, and a little bit nervous, but the overwhelming emotion is that I am very proud to be leading England."

Cook is fortunate to have reliable, familiar and expert allies at his side in team director Andy Flower and batting coach Graham Gooch.

The 27-year-old knows both very well from his formative years at Essex, and Flower in particular has rarely been far away as his and Cook's career paths have neatly intertwined.

The novice Test captain is clearly grateful to have Flower on his side, adding: "One of his best qualities is he's very, very strong-willed and knows what he wants."

"The players are conscious that there are no grey areas."

Those Flower characteristics may well have been significant during England's stand-off with Pietersen last summer.

But with the latter's contract wrangles now set aside and his return to the fold achieved, only after a show of contrition and a series of meetings to re-establish working relationships with team-mates and management, Cook is thankful too to have the South Africa-born batsman at his disposal again.

"As a captain, it's great to have a world-class batter back," he added.

"He's a guy who can change a game very quickly and, like he did in Colombo, win matches for us in sessions.

"Not many people in the world can do that."

Cook has even coined a new, more prosaic, term for the high-flown "reintegration" Pietersen was prescribed in September by England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke.

"The 'process', or whatever you want to call it, in my eyes has finished," said Cook.

"We're moving on, and it's great to have Kev back.

"The whole side has adapted to the situation of what has happened over the last few months.

"We have had to draw a line under it and we have moved on."

Pietersen - England have to a man been at pains to stress - has played his part.

"He has been brilliant, and the lads have been brilliant," Cook added.

"So I just want to concentrate on what's important - which is playing a game of cricket."

England will have to do that without Steven Finn on Thursday, after Cook confirmed the open secret that the fast bowler's recovery from a thigh strain is not sufficiently progressed.

They will take a minor gamble on Stuart Broad's bruised heel, but two risks over frontline bowlers is one too many.

England are therefore likely to name Tim Bresnan as their third seamer, behind James Anderson and Broad, in an attack completed by Graeme Swann's off-spin and all-rounder Samit Patel's left-arm orthodox.

On a pitch already looking notably dry, but surrounded by a lush outfield, a hedged bet between spin and reverse-swing is probably as well as they can do.

India, meanwhile, have an adoring yet demanding public to serve.

"There's a lot of pressure, especially here in India, on the home team," said Cook.

"But one thing they seem to have done over the years is cope with that.

"They have an excellent home record. So history says they can deal with pressure. Our job is to put them under some pressure.

"We are ready - that's part of the reason we came out for three-and-a-half weeks, to be ready.

"The proof of the pudding will be over these next four Test matches."