Bell is looking the unfortunate fall guy as Cook sings Bairstow praises

Alastair Cook seems sure to tell an established frontline batsman that he is not required against India this morning, and must make way for rising star Jonny Bairstow.

The England captain insists, however, the selection “headache” is no hardship and merely a sign of the strength and depth in his country’s cricket.

Cook’s side begin their bid, at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in the first of five one-day internationals, to follow up the 3-0 home victory over India in last month’s NatWest Series.

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Such has been the impression made by Bairstow, in a match-winning debut in Cardiff and then with an astounding 53-ball hundred in England’s second warm-up win here, it will be a significant shock if he is left out.

That leaves the only feasible alternatives to miss the series opener as Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen or Jonathan Trott.

Since Pietersen’s role was already being publicly factored into England’s game plan by the captain at his press conference yesterday, and Trott’s career statistics are so compelling, Bell is the obvious fall guy.

It will appear harsh on whoever is omitted, but Cook is accentuating the positive element to his and coach Andy Flower’s dilemma.

“What a great position to be in,” he said. “It’s not just this 15 – there are other players who are pushing as well.

“As a captain and as a coach to select a side, you want these headaches.

“Yes, they are headaches and it’s going to be a tough call. But you would rather have to make that call.”

Cook gave such a ringing endorsement of Bairstow’s credentials, following his latest eye-catching innings, that the 22-year-old Yorkshireman must be a strong favourite to be included.

“He played really well, didn’t he?” said Cook.

“It was a really good knock, but I think the whole batting line-up played well.

“He finished it off nicely. He has shown us at Cardiff that he can be a very special player.

“He hits the ball hard and can clear the ropes. It is a great place for him to make a name for himself.”

Quizzed specifically on the whys and wherefores of selecting Bell or Pietersen, Cook answered carefully – yet seemed already to have given the game away when he nominated who will bat at No 3 in variable circumstance.

“The answer is trying to pick a side that has the best chance to win a game – and that’s what we will do,” he said.

“Between any of the 15, that’s the idea.

“In the Sri Lanka series, I can’t remember whether I was the pinch-hitter or Kiesy (Craig Kieswetter). But KP goes in (at three) if Kiesy gets out, and that’s what we did then.”

Pietersen’s body language has been as much a focus of attention as his warm-up match runs – there have been few of the latter – on his return to England colours, after being rested for the NatWest Series.

He stated that he is committed to playing for England until the 2015 World Cup at least, only for another complication to splinter out of the woodwork – thanks to the newspaper serialisation of Graeme Swann’s forthcoming autobiography.

In it, the off-spinner recalls Pietersen’s brief tenure as England captain.

Pietersen led England to a 5-0 ODI series loss here in 2008, and Swann has made it clear he thinks he was a bad choice to take charge of the team.

Cook, whose own stumbling team-talks are also skitted by Swann in his book, reports relations remain harmonious.

“There has not been an issue between them; they are getting on fine,” he said. “We are a strong team, and this hasn’t changed that.”

Cook, in his first overseas tour as permanent ODI captain, knows the recent home victory over these opponents will count for nothing as England try to overturn a record on their last two limited-overs trips here which reads a startling 10-1 to India.

“That’s the challenge we have ahead of us,” he said. “We know historically how strong India are at home, but I’m very confident we can produce a challenge here.

“We are ready to go. We feel we can challenge any side. We know when we play our best cricket we have a chance against anyone.”

India (from): MS Dhoni (capt, wkt), P Patel, A Rahane, G Gambhir, V Kohli, S Raina, R Jadeja, P Kumar, R Ashwin, R Vinay Kumar, U Yadav, V Aaron, M Tiwary, R Sharma, S Aravind.

England (from): AN Cook (capt), C Kieswetter (wkt), IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, RS Bopara, JM Bairstow, SR Patel, TT Bresnan, GP Swann, JW Dernbach, ST Finn, IR Bell, SG Borthwick, CR Woakes.

Umpires: B Bowden (NZ) and S Tarapore (Ind).