Follow the leader, Ian Botham tells England

Published: Thursday, March 16, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Ian Botham has called on the inexperienced and ''impatient'' England team to follow the lead of their captain Andrew Flintoff, who has done an excellent job of batting with discipline and bowling with gusto while captaining the side with flair and authority.

''Flintoff deserves better than to be 1-0 down when he has been such a safe caretaker in Vaughan's absence. Now it's time for England to follow their leader,'' the former England captain wrote in his column for the Mirror.

Botham said Flintoff has the tough task of equalising the series against India but with a positive attitude, which is his hallmark, the job is not as difficult as it looks.

''Now Flintoff faces the daunting task of trying to square the series by winning England's first Test in India for 21 years with a side whose average age is 25. And when you consider the terrible luck England suffered with injuries and people flying home, holding India to 1-1 in their own back yard would be right up there among Flintoff's finest achievements,'' he said.

Botham said England had the attributes of bouncing back despite the fact that ''Normally, when you go 1-0 down in India, the shutters come down and there's no way back.'' The former captain said the bowlers had done well for England by putting India under pressure at various occasions but the batsmen have failed miserably in complementing their effort.

''Don't blame the bowlers: Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Monty Panesar have done their best to put India under pressure. But the batsmen have laid some rickety foundations,'' he pointed out.

Botham said he would want England to bat first if they won the toss in Mumbai and post a huge total and if that doesn't happen then the tourists can forget about any chance of squaring the series.

''If Flintoff wins the toss again in Mumbai on Saturday - and pray he does, because it's traditionally a result pitch where batting first is a clear advantage - I trust England will make better use of their good fortune,'' he added.

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