Taunton, July 15: India may be sharpening their appetite for their tour's first Test against England which commences a week from now. But they are set to part take of an appetiser first: facing Somerset in a three-day practice match beginning today. And the prime item on the entree menu is a clash between the domestic side's opening batsman Andrew Strauss and India's strike bowler Zaheer Khan.
Strauss will be looking to regain touch after coming up with a dismal aggregate of 27 runs in four innings against Sri Lanka recently, while Zaheer will be itching to get back into a destructive rhythm after being out with injury since ther Indian Premier League. But India coach Duncan Fletcher feels that Strauss will be under greater pressure than India's top left-arm quick.
"If he gets out early there's a chance we'll have something over him, but I believe our bowlers are pretty confident at the moment even if he does get runs," Fletcher said. "From our point of view we have to be careful that there are other batsmen in that side we need to look at."
Indian captain MS Dhoni, feels that Taunton's match will be the perfect opportunity for both players to get back into the groove. "It's good practice for both of them..., " said Dhoni. "We'll try
to get the most we can out of this game because Zaheer hasn't been bowling for a while.
Strauss for his part, is confident that the many hours he has spent in the nets facing a bowling machine will auger well for him. However, he feels that the warm-up match will not signify any bearing on the first Test.
"It's not a gamble," he said. "I've played no cricket for three weeks so it was crucial for me to be able to play some cricket this week. I don't think I've ever taken part in a Test match having not played cricket for three weeks beforehand.
Strauss's form, in particular, his showing against Zaheer, is just one of a composite set of rivalries that is set to unfold over the next five weeks. There is a fair amount at stake as well: if England win the series by two clear Tests they will overtake India and secure the No. 1 spot for the first time!
While turning No. 1 in the ICC's Test rankings is an irresistable prospect for England and one that the Strauss-Flower regime has set their sites on, they don't want such a desire to detract from the task at hand: concentrataing on winning one test at a time.
"It's possible to jump up rankings and fall back over a couple of games," Strauss said. "I think
what we're looking at is to become No.1, but a little more sustained than that. It would be great if we can achieve this goal this summer. But I wouldn't say the hard work would be done then."