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Boycott backs Indians

Calcutta: India might have lost the recent one-day series against Pakistan but former England captain Geoffrey Boycott feels that the hosts still stand a better chance of winning the five-match series against England, starting in Rajkot on Friday.

“...it’s about 60-40 in India’s favour, I would say, in this series to come,” said Boycott.

“I don’t think India will be as tough to beat as they were. They’ll still be tough in their own country, they’ve still got a lot of other good players.

“(Mahendra Singh) Dhoni is a fantastic player, there’s (Virat) Kohli — they are good players. It just gives England a bit more of a chance, may be, but I believe India are right to try and plan ahead and move forward,” Boycott told ESPNcricinfo.

“India are trying out one or two new fast bowlers. They are making Ravindra Jadeja a major spinner; we all know about his batting, and his triple hundreds, but you make him like a spinner, get some young fast bowlers in, because Zaheer Khan is more or less past it,” he added.

Boycott said the Indian team should not get too worried as the recent slump of form can be attributed to the transition phase it is going through after the retirement of seniors such as Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

“I like young batsman (Ajinkya) Rahane, he looks promising. And I know that losing to Pakistan may hurt a lot of supporters of Indian cricket. That’s part and parcel of moving forward, trying new guys, moving towards an end product which is the World Cup in Australia.

“You’ve always got to remember you are the world champions,” Boycott said.

He said it is important to try new players as it’s only two -and-ahalf years to go for the 2015 World Cup.

“You’ve got nearly two and a half years to the World Cup. You’ve got to use that time in the one-dayers to develop one or two youngsters to go with the experienced guys. You’ve got to move forward and give these guys opportunities to see how they perform,” stressed Boycott.

He felt England had a long way to go. “In Sri Lanka recently, playing the World Twenty20, England were poor. It’s a team not fully formed or ready for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. But the selectors are working towards that, and I think that’s right.

“They have selected some young guys over the last 12 months or more who they feel may develop into good players and form part of the team, with some older guys, guys who we recognise as experienced and good. You want to develop a good team by the time the World Cup comes around.

“And also, remember, the pitches in Australia won’t be like the subcontinent pitches that England and India are going to play on now. So when the selectors have put these youngsters in, they are aware that they don’t quite play so well on the slow, turning pitches in India, but it won’t be quite the same in Australia. Supporters have to bear that in mind when judging our players’ performances or our team’s performance.

“For me, I’ll be watching the youngsters very carefully. I’ll be interested in that. Everybody knows the quality of people like Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Alastair Cook, Graeme Swann — they are a given.

“They may get rested here and there but these are players who you know can perform at the highest level in all three forms of cricket. But I’m watching the development of someone like Jos Buttler.

“When I first saw him 12 months ago, hmm, didn’t do anything special, but now I’ve seen one or two little innings, cameos, and I say he’s got a little bit of something, this lad. I’ve seen him under pressure, how he uses that situation — can he use it to his advantage, can he help the team, and in doing so help himself? I’ll try and watch situations.

“We’ve got a young left-arm spinner who’s there — I hope he gets chances — called Danny Briggs. He’s quite good. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of him. Then you’ve got a guy called Stuart Meaker, a new fast-medium bowler, he might turn out to be decent.

“But you never know until you put them in situations where there’s pressure, difficult situations, you look as if you might be losing, so somebody’s going to pull it back for you. How are these people going to react? So I’m watching for the Meakers, the Buttlers, the Briggses, to see what happens, and I hope they get chances.”