Cook set for 10th opening partner in Haseeb Hammed

Cook, who has so far opened the innings (after Andrew Strauss retired in 2012) with Jonathan Trott, Moeen Ali, Adam Lyth, Sam Robson, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Nick Compton, Michael Carberry and Duckett, was talking to media prior his team's first Test against India.

England's captain Alastair Cook attends a news conference ahead of their first test cricket match against India in Rajkot.   -  Reuters

England captain Alastair Cook is all set to open the innings with another partner after Garry Balance struggled in the team's recent tour of Bangladesh. "Has (Haseeb Hammed) is going to open the batting and Ben (Duckett) to bat at 4," said the 31-year-old England captain at the pre-match press conference.

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Cook, who has so far opened the innings (after Andrew Strauss retired in 2012) with Jonathan Trott, Moeen Ali, Adam Lyth, Sam Robson, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Nick Compton, Michael Carberry and Duckett, was talking to the media prior his team's first Test against India.

Excerpts:

Balance making way for Haseeb...

It’s an unfortunate decision on Garry (Balance). In six Test matches, he has not scored the runs like he would have liked to have done. It has given someone else the opportunity and it is a very exciting day for a young guy (Haseeb) who has impressed everyone so far in this trip. You often wonder a 19-year-old to be overawed and he has not been on a tour. He has looked really good in the nets, the way he trained. He did not shirk his 12th man duties, looked more experienced than a 19-year suggests.

On Duckett playing in the middle-order...

He is an unflappable character. He had three tough innings and played a really good innings at the top of the order. Historically, he has played all his cricket in the middle-order apart from the last year or so. He can bat anywhere. It is never ideal to chop and change.

Quitting captaincy...

It was an answer to a question which was quite hard to answer. When someone asks how long you see yourself captaining for, you don’t normally know, do you? Ever since Sri Lanka just before the World Cup, I have been very open. You guys were very open with Andrew Strauss. So when someone asks you how long will I be captain, I said I don’t know. It could be two months, it could be this series, could be six years, it could be two years.

That was the kind of answer and probably the headline was made intentionally like everything. It will be series-by-series like how I have been going about the business in the last two years. Every series, I keep saying it is going to define you, when you won the Ashes, 2015 at home, winning away in South Africa, when someone wrote the headline ‘is Cook up for challenge’ and it has repeated itself. It’s a big series against India, we have played some very good cricket. This side has exceeded expectations and hope to do the same in the next six or seven weeks.

On Ravichandran Ashwin...

His strength and confidence is sky high after the number of wickets he has taken in the last one year in Indian conditions. Cricket is a funny game. A lot of it is played in the mind and he is trying, probably he knows his game better than he was three years ago...of experience and craft. You don’t become a world class spinner overnight, it takes a lot of time. Graeme Swann is probably the best example. For us, he made his debut early, (after)8-9 years of wilderness, he said it helped him develop his spin bowling. Probably Ashwin has done that.

Challenge to play or bowl spin...

Challenge we have got. Losing 10 wickets in a session (against Bangladesh at Mirpur) was an eye opener. A lot of people have not played in such conditions. Things can change very, very quickly. Dealing with pressure with men around the bat when you first go in is tough. We are used to having three slips, two gullies, a short leg, and the guy bowling a lot seamers at us. And here you have a guy bowling a lot of spin, that’s the challenge we had in Bangladesh and we have it here.