Hussain receives OBE, wants to maintain winning vein

Published: Saturday, July 13, 2002, 17:34 [IST]
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London: England captain Nasser Hussain received an OBE (Order of British Empire) at Buckingham Palace on Friday and then got back down to the business of plotting the downfall of India in Saturday's triangular series final at Lord's. Hussain hopes victory over the Indians will establish England as challengers for the World Cup in South Africa next February. "Today was the first opportunity to go to the Palace and I wanted to do that and now I've done that it's back to my day job trying to win games of cricket, but I wouldn't swap the award I got today for much," stressed Hussain. Since the mini-revolution within the England One-day side during the winter, introducing younger more agile cricketers like Paul Collingwood and Jeremy Snape, it stands at 4-4 with its opponents with the match at Chester-le-Street last week being washed out. England will face India again in September during the ICC Champions' Trophy before meeting up for the big showdown - the World Cup preliminary match in Durban on February 26. Hussain is eager to develop a culture where winning games becomes a habit and would like to start by holding the trophy aloft at Lord's. "This is not that important in the grand scheme of things," he said. "We won this tournament two years ago when we had Zimbabwe and West Indies over here and no one remembers that too highly now. "But it will be nice to win and you do have to keep an eye on that World Cup even though it will probably be better to beat them in the World Cup because that will be the major One-day tournament. "Sometimes it's frustrating when we take one step forward and two steps back and it would be nice to just go forward all the time, but that has got to come from our disciplines and our work ethic. "Just because we've had a good game against India at the Oval, it doesn't mean we can afford to slack off in practice - we have to try to go forward all the time." The prize on offer for all of England's players will be to clinch a place in this winter's One-day squad, which will almost certainly be identical to the one that travels to South Africa for the World Cup. England is already almost there in the selection of its squad, with only the Sri Lanka tournament and a triangular series in Australia to go before it launches the campaign against Zimbabwe in Harare. "We're closer now than ever to picking our One-day squad for the World Cup and a good performance and a good result against India in this match will make it very difficult to make too many changes," admitted Hussain. "There haven't been that many new names in this squad from the winter tours - we've shuffled and made ourselves a bit more flexible in our batting line-ups and we're closer to knowing our squad, but we're still a little bit away from knowing our best XI. "We've got plenty of games to put that right and the door's not closed by any means. You only have to see Ronnie Irani as an example - two or three months ago nobody had him down but know everyone has him in the squad and there's other people out there who could easily burst into this squad." Whether England's best line-up includes Graham Thorpe, an indispensable member of the team until last winter, remains to be seen having been overlooked for their last three matches. Initially overlooked because of a slight ankle complaint, he has missed the last two purely on selection grounds and with Hussain insisting he will play his best team for Saturday's final, the Surrey left-hander's importance to the side will be reflected when England announces the line-up. "He's played a lot of cricket for England over the last two years when he's been available for selection and it will be a very difficult selection because all 15 people could easily play," Hussain stressed. "Originally he had a sore ankle and we wanted to give him a rest, look at Michael Vaughan and try a few other things and be a bit more dynamic in the field. "We want people to get caps under their belt so that if someone rocks up for a semi- final injured or something the lads that are coming in have played quite a bit of cricket." Thorpe's ankle is unlikely to rule him out contention while Darren Gough (knee) and Andrew Flintoff (groin) are also nursing slight injuries but all should be available, although Dominic Cork is unlikely to force his way into the starting line- up after being called up to replace James Kirtley.

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