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Jonathan Agnew column

By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in India

Kevin Pietersen
This must be the sternest challenge ever faced by an England cricket team and we wait with interest to see if Kevin Pietersen's men can rise to it

Jonathan Agnew

Heavy rain, and the threat of further weather interruptions during the match, has done nothing to assist England's preparations for this hastily rearranged Test.

But while much of the focus has, inevitably, been on the team's decision to return to India despite the recent Mumbai attacks, the attention must now switch to the real reason for them being here.

That would be easier to achieve if Test cricket had a wider purpose. The ICC's Test standings are largely an irrelevance, born from a desire to give every series a wider context, and surely no-one pays them any real interest.

The fact is that it is easier for England to come and play these games because, ultimately, they have no real bearing on anything. Perhaps that is just as well because this series needs to be played - just as cricket has to continue in Pakistan, too.

It is difficult to see how international cricket could function if teams refused to tour India because of fears over security and I hope this shakes the BCCI [Indian Board of Control] out of its current state of complacency, and its bullying belief that it can act entirely as it wants.

If the BCCI has learned anything from this tragic affair, it should be that it needs all of its friends and allies all of the time and, occasionally, that it must listen to them.

In England's case, that means the entirely reasonable request made before every tour for the major matches to be staged in large centres so the many thousands of England supporters can come to watch.

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The BCCI, driven instead by the votes that come from the rural outposts, has contemptuously ignored this for years to the extent that this match in Chennai, formerly Madras, is England's first game here of any description for 15 years.

Both teams will be as frustrated by the stifling security as they will be comforted by it, and let's hope that this is not a sign of the way international cricket will be staged from now on.

While we have inevitably focused on England, it will be interesting to see how India's players perform following recent events. Before the one-day series was interrupted, MS Dhoni's team were playing superb cricket and were on a roll.

Somehow they must rediscover the tremendous self-belief that powered them to the 5-0 lead in the one-day series that knocked the stuffing out of the tourists.

This Test series does represent a fresh start and, with Ganguly and Kumble now retired, the Indian team has lost two of its finest campaigners.

But all things considered, this must be the sternest challenge ever faced by an England cricket team and we wait with interest to see if Kevin Pietersen's men can rise to it.

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see also
England opt for Swann and Prior
10 Dec 08 |  England
The making of Monty
10 Dec 08 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
28 Nov 08 |  England
England call up Khan and Rashid
07 Dec 08 |  England
Champions League cricket on hold
27 Nov 08 |  Cricket
As it happened: Mumbai attacks 27 Nov
27 Nov 08 |  South Asia
Mumbai rocked by deadly attacks
27 Nov 08 |  South Asia
England in India 2008
01 Dec 08 |  Cricket


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