Indian tour is a huge challenge says Cook

Mumbai: England captain Alastair Cook on Monday described the forthcoming four-Test series against India as a huge challenge as no team from his country has won a Test series here for three decades.

"It's a huge challenge as history suggests. It is so hard for an English side to win in the sub-continent. We are just desperate to use the conditions in these three (warm-up) games and change things around," said the left-handed opener at his first post-arrival media conference here.

"Clearly the history shows how hard it is (to win in India). It's been 30 years (since England won a Test series in India). That's the sort of challenge we have ahead of us."

"Nowhere is it going to be easy; there are going to be really tough hurdles on the way. We have to overcome those challenges. As players we put ourselves in that situation as to what we want to do. If we want to be tested against the best in hard conditions then this tour is up there," Cook elaborated.

The 2-1 Test series victory after coming from a match down in 1984-85 under David Gower was the last time England had beaten India in the latter's shores.

The England team, baring Kevin Pietersen, flew in early this morning from Dubai, where they practiced for a few days before reaching the Indian shores.

Pietersen arrived late Sunday night by a separate flight after taking part in the Champions League T20 in South Africa for Delhi Daredevils.

"Both sides have world class players. It's going to be a fantastic series to watch. Whichever team handles the conditions better will win the series," said the England skipper, who had made his Test debut with a half century and an unbeaten ton at Nagpur six years ago.

Cook was not too concerned about the nature of wickets that India would offer. "We can't control the wickets. We have to adapt to whatever the conditions are. I am sure India will have to do the same job," he said.

Cook said there was no quick fix to play spin bowling, perceived as his team's biggest threat from the Indian ranks, in the sub continent and it has to be learnt gradually.

"(Graham) Gooch (former England captain and team batting coach) sent me here when I was 19. It's never a single fix; it's a gradual process to play spin in the sub-continent. I made my Test debut in India."

"I feel I have the experience to pass my experience to younger players. I have a fairly decent record here as well. If we have to win the series all of us will have to stand up and score runs," he said.

Cook rued the absence of his long-term opening partner Andrew Strauss, who has retired, but said this gave a chance to some one else to put his hand up and deliver.

"That will be one of the big changes; it will be strange to walk out and bat for England without Strauss. It was a pleasure to bat with him and it was great to know such a familiar face at the other end. We are friends off the cricket field and that showed in our relationship when we were batting. It's a shame that will never happen again," he said.

"But it's a great opportunity for someone else to go out and open the batting for England. I made my debut six and half years ago in India and it's a great place to open the batting."

"It's a great opportunity for someone to stick his hands up and make the opening space his. There's no better place to bat for England than at the opening slot," Cook said.

"India is a great place to play cricket, the enthusiasm India has for cricket and the passion to be involved, we are very lucky to be here. We can't wait for the game to start tomorrow and get ready for the first Test in two and half week's time," added the visiting team skipper, who has 20 Test centuries to his credit.

Cook said his team would try to win the three warm-up games before the start of the Test series on November 13 at Ahmedabad.

"We always try and win these warm up games. The idea is always to get as much game time for our players so that they are ready for the first Test," he said.

England take on India A from today and then Mumbai A at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai from November 3-5 before moving on to play their final four-day warm-up game from November 8-11 ahead of the opening Test.

Cook was not bothered that India A did not have any frontline spinner in its ranks.

"We have no right to select the India A team, it's not in out control. There's Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina in the team for spin. We have done a huge amount of work after what happened in the UAE 12 months. We will continue to do that in the next two months," he said.

Cook said his team had chalked out plans for the entire Indian batting line-up.

"We have plans for their entire batting line up. It's a world class batting line up. If we have to win this series we have to bowl well against their full batting line up."

Team director and former Zimbabwe captain Andy Flower said his team also focused on playing seam bowling in Dubai apart from spin.

"Seamers can take wickets in these conditions. So that was part of our focus as well," he said.

He also said that Stuart Broad is the team's vice-captain for the tour.

Pietersen, who was chucked out of the team during the lost Test rubber at home against South Africa for sending unflattering messages to the rival camp about then captain Andrew Strauss and other team members, would play in the tourists' opening tour game against India A at the Cricket Club of India, starting tomorrow.

"Kevin will play tomorrow and go at No. 4. It's been a day of recovery. We have seen Kevin, he's desperate to get going and we are desperate to have him back in the team. It's always great to have a world class player in the team," said Flower.

"We want to play outstanding cricket that we are capable of. He's played a huge amount of cricket and a lot in the sub-continent and in the IPL and that experience will be valuable for us," said Flower.