Captain Andrew Strauss calls for England focus

By Sam SheringhamBBC Sport
Andrew Strauss
Strauss' team need to win by two Tests to become number one in the world

England captain Andrew Strauss is urging his players not to get caught up in the hype surrounding their four-match Test series with India and to focus on the gritty reality of trying to overcome the best side in the world.

The contest begins at Lord's on Thursday with the 2,000th Test match in history and the 100th between England and India.

The fact that the tourists' legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar is looking to score his 100th international century and his first at the home of cricket has added to the sense of anticipation.

But Strauss, who on the eve of the match named Tendulkar as "the best Test cricketer of all time", says the statistics will be pushed to the background when the two teams take the field.

"I don't think this series needs a lot of hype, because it is India versus England - two very good sides," he said. "The recipe is there for it to be a very entertaining series. The wider context is not something we are spending a lot of time focussing on.

"In any Test series every side is hoping to get off to a fast start, get ahead of the opposition team and earn the right over the course of the four Test matches to win the series. All that other stuff is not for us to concentrate on and will look after itself."

Strauss said he was "pretty clear" about the makeup of England's team, but would not reveal whether Stuart Broad or Tim Bresnan would fill the final slot in the bowling attack.

"It's a tough decision," he added. "All 12 players in our squad have got strong merits to be playing in the final XI. That's a good position to be in as a captain but it makes it difficult to leave someone out.

"The fundamentals are that you always pick the 11 guys you think will win you the Test match and this match is no different."

England have not beaten India in a Test series since 1996 and suffered a 1-0 reverse at home to the Asian side in 2007 before losing by the same margin in their 2008-09 tour of the subcontinent.

But after winning seven of their last eight series, Strauss' side are now third in the world Test rankings, and can depose India at number one if they win the series by two Tests or more.

And the skipper believes England can use victory over India as a stepping stone to a sustained period of dominance.

"Over the last two years, I don't think any side has been better than us," he said. "But this is a new challenge. Our ultimate goal is not just to be the side that is top of the rankings, it is to be the side that everyone agrees is the number one side in the world."

Mahendra Dhoni
Dhoni did not play in the tour match against Somerset

England can draw confidence from India's under-par display against Somerset in their only warm-up match for the Test series, a game in which Strauss struck 78 and 109 not out.

Moreover, the tourists have been weakened by an injury to explosive opener Virender Sehwag, whose place will be taken by 21-year-old left-hander Abhinav Mukund.

However, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni dispelled any suggestion the tourists were undercooked, saying they would draw inspiration from the evergreen Tendulkar as he targets his landmark innings.

"Every time he turns up on the field he wants to improve his game," said Dhoni. "That's what keeps him going. He made his debut at 17 and became a superstar in no time, but as a person he has stayed the same, and is someone for all the youngsters to look up to."

Strauss went on to express his disappointment at the International Cricket Council's decision to bow to pressure from the Indian board to abandon the use of the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) for lbw decisions.

The third umpire will be able to use the stump microphones and Hot spot to decide on catches, but not the predictive ball-tracking element of Hawkeye.

"It's not ideal," said Strauss. "I think the DRS system has worked very well over the last 12 or 18 months and we are getting more decisions right as a result of it, which is a good thing.

"We are going to have to deal with the halfway house we have at the moment, but for us as players to be overly concerned about it would be unhelpful."

Dhoni explained India's opposition to the system.

"We are not 100% convinced when it comes to the tracking system and until we are 100% convinced we don't want to go with it," he said.

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