Cricket: Buttler called up as Prior battles fitness

ENGLAND called up wicketkeeper Jos Buttler on Tuesday as cover for the first Test against India at Trent Bridge after Matt Prior reported feeling tightness in his right thigh.

Skippers Alastair Cook and MS Dhoni pose with Pataudi Trophy which will be contested by England and India. Picture: AP

The 32-year-old Prior began feeling tightness in the leg on Monday, but England captain Alastair Cook believes he will be able to play when the first Test begins today in Nottingham.

“We are 99 per cent certain he will be fine,” Cook said. “You have a little check in the morning just to make sure, but all looks good at the moment.”

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Regarding his own form, Cook acknowledges that he must improve his contributions with the bat. His last century for England came in May 2013 against New Zealand.

“I just need to go back to scoring runs,” Cook said, while denying the captaincy is to blame for his downturn in form.

“I can honestly say that it has never crossed my mind, when someone is running in at mid-80s to 90 miles per hour, I’m thinking about what field placings I’m going to set for someone else,” he said.

Cook also claimed he is not worried about losing the captaincy should he fail to score runs across the five Tests against India. “I’m not in charge of making decisions like that,” he said. “It’s a huge honour to do this and I can go to sleep knowing I’ve thrown everything I’ve got into it.”

England have to decide whether to reintroduce all-rounder Ben Stokes, who is returning from a wrist injury after punching a locker, back into the starting line-up. Cook feels it is one of the better problems he has at the moment.

“It is a tough selection call, and it is what you want as a captain,” he said. “In Australia, he was the stand-out player. Then you have other people who have done well in his absence. Whoever plays will be desperately keen to keep their place and that can only be healthy competition.”

India captain MS Dhoni, meanwhile, says he is not concerned by the fact his side have not won any of their last 14 away Test matches.

“What is important for us is to take the team forward,” Dhoni said. “(We need) to give the team guidance. The more games they play, the more they improve. It is a constant process.”

The last time India travelled to England for a Test series, they were whitewashed 4-0. England then won the return series in India 2-1, but since then, the English have fallen from the summit of international cricket.

Still, Dhoni is still expecting a challenging series. “When it comes to international cricket, there comes a phase where every team does really well, and there comes a phase where they won’t do too much,” he said.

“Even the mightiest teams. After that you go through a phase where you won’t do very well. You have players moving out and new ones coming in. England have some very good players. It is a matter of time before they come back into form.”

Kevin Pietersen believes Cook and England could be in for a tough summer against India if they do not find a way to cope without Graeme Swann.

The off-spinner retired midway through last winter’s disappointing tour of Australia, leaving England without a front-line slow bowler as they prepare to face a side accustomed to the challenges of facing spin.

Swann was a veteran of 60 Test matches, in which he took 255 wickets – a contrast to England’s current spin option of Moeen Ali, a batting all-rounder with just three Test and 143 first-class scalps to his name.

Cook has been criticised recently over his captaincy and Pietersen reckons Swann made his job, and that of previous incumbent Andrew Strauss, far easier.

“Alastair Cook struggles to captain the side when opposition batters become established because he cannot toss the ball to Swann, who could defend and attack in equal measure,” he wrote in his newspaper column.

“Swann made Andrew Strauss’ captaincy look good and he made Cook’s look good, too, by making crucial breakthroughs when the opposition were threatening to take the game away. It was down to Swann’s genius, and not tactical masterstrokes.