A BATTING WITH BIMAL BREAKING REPORT: Our team spirit has never been better, say Matt Prior

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Prior is confident that England have the ability to beat India in the third Test

Despite ongoing speculation that harmony within the England camp was at an all time low heading into the Test series against India, wicketkeeper Matt Prior has dismissed all the rumours by saying that spirits in the dressing room have never been better, especially after the team’s win at Mumbai.

England came into the series against India having lost their world number one Test team title to the South Africans and many team members felt like they had been betrayed by batsman Kevin Pietersen when he decided to send derogatory text messages about former Test captain Andrew Strauss, who also announced his retirement during the whole Pietersen saga, and head coach Andy Flower.

Despite being thrashed in the first Test at Ahmedabad by nine wickets, England were able to recuperate and pull off an emphatic win against the Indians during the second Test.

With the series now tied at 1-1, Prior is confident that he and the rest of his team-mates can win the third Test at Kolkata and perhaps even end England’s 27 years of constant humiliation when playing in India.

“We go into this Test match feeling fully prepared that we’ve covered every base,” Prior said. “We’ve had a very good and long preparation phase this time around. We have been able to hit a lot of balls and play a lot of cricket on these types of wickets. We have given ourselves the best chance. We have prepared as well as we can. It’s now down to performing on the pitch.

“There are certain things that we do now in our net sessions and in our training and our thought processes that are very different to other England teams I’ve toured with. If you keep doing what you always did, you keep getting what you’ve always got. I think the records speak for themselves: how long it’s been since England last won out here.

“So to come out here and win in that environment would be even better. All these little challenges lead to something that, if we could pull it off, would be a fantastic honour to be part of.”

Prior also noted that Pietersen’s ‘reintegration’ into the England team has been nothing short of a success and added that he will be the key man for the series after his match-winning 186 against the Indians during the second Test.

“We wouldn’t want KP to change too much because it is how he is that makes him special as a player,” Prior said. “If Kev suddenly came as this shy, introverted character I would be more worried. I want him to go out and express himself. I’m glad he’s come back the same KP as he was. The important thing is this group all pulling together in the right direction and Kev, the character that he is, pulling with us makes us a far stronger team and that is happening right now.

“Kevin is in our team and in our squad. It is as good as it has been since I’ve been in this England side.”

Prior admitted that he was frustrated when learning of what Pietersen had done over the summer, but stated that he had definitely seen a change in the South African-born batsman’s attitude.

After having taken charge of ensuring that Pietersen had a successful ‘reintegration’ back into the national team, Prior is now looked upon as an authoritative figure within the England camp.

“I like that role,” Prior said. “I genuinely believe that it’s the team in big situations that win you games and get you out of holes. It’s about 11 blokes pulling in the same direction rather than one or two or three individuals. Obviously individual performances always help. But it’s the group that is stronger than anything. That is why I feel so strongly about the team pulling together.”

With the third Test rapidly approaching, England are facing a serious dilemma over whether Steven Finn should replace Stuart Broad, who was named as the vice-captain for this series.

When asked about the situation involving the two pace bowlers, Prior said: “It’s a setback, I’m sure the coach and captain would want to choose from every player who’s out here but we have lot of strength in depth in the squad. It’s one thing that’s made our squad so strong over the last couple of years.”

Prior further admitted that he is still haunted by the tour of the United Arab Emirates in January, where England were humiliated and embarrassed after suffering a 3-0 whitewashing at the hands of Pakistan.

England have been known to struggle against spin bowlers throughout the year, but Prior believes that their road to recovery is back on track after the 10 wicket win in Mumbai.

“That series is always in the back of your mind,” Prior admitted. “But, as an international sportsman, you have to be pretty thick skinned and able to move on. I hope we learn from our experiences and mistakes and take them forward into these Test matches.

“I think it’s going to be tough. But out of those tough challenges come your great rewards. Winning the Ashes in Australia was a tough challenge but it felt even better at the end of it because it was tough. If it was easy it’s not as much fun if you come out on top.”

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