Alastair Cook shows captain's mettle ahead of first Test against India

England's new captain looked relaxed: he admitted to being "excited and a little bit nervous" and then added that his overwhelming feeling was one of pride.

Alastair Cook captained England in Test cricket in two matches in Bangladesh, but only as a stand-in for the resting Andrew Strauss. This time the job is his own, it is for real and hopefully for some considerable time.

We already know his style: "I'll be no different to the one-dayers," he said. "As a captain you can't change who you are." We should know not to underestimate him.

Churchillian exhortations may not be his forte, but he is not as angelic as he looks. Cook is tough and his own man – and in the past has always found a way to make things work.

Which is just as well since he has inherited a tricky situation in the wake of the Kevin Pietersen saga. Cook insists everyone is "moving on". "As a captain it is great to have a world-class batter in your side. Not many can bat like he [Pietersen] did in Colombo.

"In my eyes the [reintegration] process is finished. Kevin has been brilliant with the lads and the lads have been brilliant with him." Cook said he did not want a new meek Pietersen in his dressing room. "I don't want to change his confidence and his swagger because as a captain that's what you want." For the moment, at least, all is peace and light.

Cook was keen to laud the virtues of his coach, whose relationship with Pietersen has been more prickly. "I have been lucky enough to play with him [Andy Flower] and we have always had a good relationship. I have the utmost respect for him. One of his best characteristics is that he is so strong-willed. He knows exactly what he wants." More peace and light.

Cook confirmed that Steve Finn was not available for the first Test. It was "too early, too big a risk" to play him, but he bridled at the description of Tim Bresnan, Finn's likeliest replacement, as a "back-up" bowler.

He also noted the dryness of the relaid pitch, which is expected to favour the India spinners as the match progresses. "We would have liked to have faced more quality spinners [in the warm-up matches] but we can't control that. We have had excellent spinners in the nets," Cook said, before adding, "We are ready."

MS Dhoni was asked whether he was behind the Indian ploy of depriving England of the chance to face good spinners. His face was a picture of innocence. "I have been in South Africa," he said, which does not rule out the cunning old Duncan Fletcher sending out a dictat. However, that is not a foolproof plan. England's batsmen have been in the runs partly because the quality of bowling has been mediocre. So confidence is high even if experience against capable Indian spinners is low.

Dhoni outlined the contrast between his two front-line spinners, which is handy since neither of the 26-year-olds, Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, has played a Test against England. "Ashwin is more aggressive with plenty of variations" – Dhoni would go on to mention the googly, the leg-break, the carrom ball and the off-break, which is his stock delivery – "and very often Ojha keeps it tight so that Ashwin can attack."

The duel between this pair and the England batsmen could decide the series and, as ever, the contribution of the prodigal Pietersen will be critical. "I never doubted KP would be in the squad," Dhoni said. "He is a great bat, so aggressive and we will enjoy the contest." Clearly Pietersen has admirers and friends in the India side as well – probably best not to text them too often though.

Powered by article was written by Vic Marks in Ahmedabad, for on Wednesday 14th November 2012 11.20 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © JJ Hall