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Colly's pack will go on the attack

England take the first step today on what they hope will be a four-year journey towards a better one-day future when they attempt to hunt like a pack and apply the final conclusive blows to a wounded West Indies.

Both sides have new captains for the first of two sell-out Twenty20 internationals at The Brit Oval, but their moods contrast sharply. While Paul Collingwood talked about leading a young team full of 'energy and enthusiasm', Chris Gayle was again forced to address the dispute between the West Indies players and their board which is bringing an acrimonious end to a tortuous tour.

It was impossible not to think back four years as Collingwood spoke of the 'fantastic attitude' of his players and the 'honeymoon period' he will attempt to prolong as he prepared for his first match in charge under the new split-captaincy system.

In 2003 it was Michael Vaughan doing the talking after taking over as one-day skipper from Nasser Hussain and he was preparing to give chances to the likes of Jim Troughton, Anthony McGrath, Rikki Clarke, Rob Key, Richard Johnson and Chris Read.

Four years on, a similar post-World Cup watershed and now only the names have changed to include the likes of Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Jonathan Trott, who is fit to play today, and Dimitri Mascarenhas as planning begins for the 2011 World Cup.

None of Vaughan's newcomers came anywhere near completing the course but it is pertinent to remember the previous one-day era started with wins over Pakistan and South Africa before England's one-day cricket slid towards World Cup disappointment.

Whether the Collingwood regime turns out to be any different remains to be seen but, for now, a more realistic target for those looking to prove they can make the step up to international level is surely a place in the first Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in September.

If today's inexperienced players are around then, after five matches against West Indies and seven against India, progress will have been made.

West Indies have been much better in limited overs than Test cricket recently but they take the field today against a backdrop of an internal dispute which is threatening to eclipse the 1998 stand-off when their team holed themselves up at a hotel near Heathrow Airport and effectively went on strike ahead of their tour to South Africa. And this time they cannot blame Brian Lara.

Gayle, the epitome of Jamaican cool, is emerging as an unlikely statesman amid the chaos. His justifiable complaints over the board's failure to fly their one-day specialists to England to take on the Lions last week were met with apoplexy by the board who have told the stand-in one-day captain they will 'pursue the matter at the end of the tour'. Yesterday he smiled, shrugged and again refused to apologise.

"I'm a big man who has been in tougher situations than this," said Gayle. "You have tough times in life and you have to stand up and handle it. We're playing on despite all the rumblings out there and we want to put all the negativity aside and concentrate on the cricket. I'll face the consequences later, if there are going to be any."

Collingwood has no such worries as he tackles the latest test in a career that he accepts has been full of challenges; from proving he had the technique for international cricket to proving he could be effective at Test level. His captaincy style will be part the calmness of Vaughan and part the 'bit of ginger' that he so delights in bringing to the England team.

He said: "You want 11 leaders out there, all sticking together when it gets feisty. I can be exactly the same competitor as captain as I am as a player, and we won't back off from anything as a group."

England won't back down from a challenge and the West Indies won't back down to their board. In the meantime they have differing reasons for wanting the shortest form of the game to provide more than just light relief today.

source - thisislondon.co.uk
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