x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Strauss and Dhoni insist England and India are not playing numbers game

England will be world No 1 if they win while Virender Sehwag returns to bolster India but captains of both sides insist focus is on playing 'good cricket'.

India will be hoping that the return of their explosive opener, Virender Sehwag, will make a big impact on the England bowlers.
India will be hoping that the return of their explosive opener, Virender Sehwag, will make a big impact on the England bowlers.

BIRMINGHAM // Andrew Strauss, the England captain, and India's MS Dhoni played down the significance of the world rankings for different reasons ahead of the third Test today.

India are currently the No 1 side, but England will leapfrog them and second-placed South Africa if they win the four-match series by two clear Tests, a feat they would achieve with victory at Edgbaston.

"We're not approaching this Test match any differently," Strauss told reporters. "That No 1 ranking comes as a consequence of playing good cricket. So all we've got to concentrate on is playing good cricket.

"Rankings are not at the forefront of our mind; what is at the forefront of our mind is starting this Test match well and hoping to get into a position to win it later in the week."

Dhoni's team have been hampered by injuries to key players such as Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag. The return of the explosive opener Sehwag will be some solace for Dhoni on a pacey Edgbaston wicket even as he remained equally unconcerned by the rankings.

"We don't talk much about ratings," Dhoni said. "I've said in the last two years, ratings are not what are important for us. What we concentrate on is the kind of cricket we are playing so we try to break the sessions into smaller sessions not look five days ahead as to what may be the result.

"What's important for us is how you go about doing stuff in the first hour. We know the small things that matter and we will try to stick to that."

England look set to make one change to the team that won by 319 runs in Nottingham with Ravi Bopara replacing the injured Jonathan Trott. Bopara's last Test was two years ago and he averages 33.46 in 10 matches.

Chris Tremlett has been released from the squad having failed to recover from a back injury, so Tim Bresnan should retain his place.

"I think Ravi being the only change would be a reasonable assumption to make barring any last minute injuries," Strauss said. "We're all delighted that Ravi has got a chance again.

"He has been knocking on the door for quite a long time. He fills the role that has been vacated by Jonathan Trott very well with his batting and his ability to bowl a few overs. It's great to see him have the opportunity come into the Test side again."

India's selection is less clear cut. Sehwag has recovered from shoulder surgery and while he made only eight in the warm-up match at Northamptonshire, Dhoni said his place was almost assured. Gautam Gambhir will also return, from a bruised arm, and will open with Sehwag.

Harbhajan is out with a stomach muscle problem and India are deciding whether to pick a replacement spinner or a fourth pace bowler.

"He [Sehwag] is practising every day, which means he's available for selection and I can see no good reason why he shouldn't play," Dhoni said.

"He's a very dynamic player who backs his instinct to play shots, irrespective of which bowler he's facing. He believes more in looking at the ball and just giving it the treatment it deserves.

"We all know an aggressive opener can have a very big impact on the opposition bowling attack - so he's a very good player to have in the side."


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