England coach Duncan Fletcher has launched a staunch defence of his team's struggle in the one-day series against India.

The depleted tourists trail 3-0 with four matches to play, the first of the quartet on India's south-west coast tomorrow, with only a recovery of miraculous proportions capable of salvaging things.

However, Fletcher believes there are multiple reasons for an inability thus far to replicate the sort of triumph of the Test team in the face of adversity.

England were without half-a-dozen of their limited-overs regulars in the 49-run defeat in the Goan heat on Monday - including international oneday player of the year Kevin Pietersen due to a stomach bug - but the worry remains that none of the players given opportunities in the absence of the first-choice team has taken the chance to shine.

In contrast, the last five batsmen to have Test debuts for England - Pietersen, Andrew Strauss, Warwickshire's Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Owais Shah - have all scored at least 50 in their first innings.

Fletcher said: "What happens with inexperienced play-ers is that you can re-group in Test cricket. You cannot re-group in one-day cricket.

"You get 300 balls bowled at you and you have to be pretty dynamic in your thought processes on what you have to change.

"In Test cricket, you can sit in a bit, take time and adapt to the pitch and see how it goes for 20 overs.

"If you do that, you would be in a bit of a problem in one-day cricket."

Continuity has been a problem for England in recent months, with a couple of key players missing the pre-Christmas defeat in Pakistan and injuries and unavailability hitting harder now.

Fletcher said: "If you are having to re-structure your side, just two or three changes is huge. We were six people short [in Goa] - six of our main players, not other individuals and that's a huge chunk out of the side.

"Inexperienced players were playing, people who don't really know their roles. We are playing in a country where the wickets are totally foreign to what we have played on else-where - they don't offer us any bounce - and spin is India's strength and they have played to that.

"If we had come out here with our full side, everyone would have said it was going to be difficult but we have not got the side which played very good cricket against Australia last summer."

With the World Cup in the Caribbean 11 months away, England's management have identified their ideal side - a clean slate of health permitting.

The No 9 position - which is likely to be filled by a fast bowler who can bat - is the only one up for grabs and 20-year-old Liam Plunkett has shown this winter that he has the attributes.

Further chances will be given to all in the remaining time here as England seek to discover those with the ability to act as cover in their long-term plans.

"It is difficult for the play-ers," Fletcher said. "People are not like machines; you cannot tell them 'new wicket, new conditions, get out there and perform'.

"We are just going to have to give them the time to get the experience so that, if those players aren't available, they have some under their belt as the year progresses."

The scoreline in the fourth game could and possibly should be different after two close calls but the chasm of victory in the latest contest on Monday - only a century stand between Paul Colling-wood and Geraint Jones provided respectability for the tourists from a position of 100 for six - was ominous.

Ironically, it was India's youngsters and up-and-comers who increased the levels of discomfort in the humid conditions as 24-year-old Yuvraj Singh's maturing career took in another century and teenager Suresh Raina was centre stage.

Three days earlier, it had been two more of the new boys, Mahendra Dhoni and six-cap Ramesh Powar, who starred as the Indians held their nerve in a tight encounter.

"If you compare us to India, they must have got a fright," Fletcher said. "They have experienced, quality players with 200 games under their belt - we are talking about four players who have five.

"You are not comparing apples with apples. Raina has played quite a few games in these conditions and done well - but what have their other players done?

"These are players who play regularly in Indian conditions, yet we have had them in trouble in three innings; every time we have gone out, we have given them a run for their money.

"Yesterday [Monday] was the one time they got away from us, in the heat. How used are we to that heat? That is another factor. India would have turned around after the first two games and said 'Hold on, we have had a real scrap'."

England may consider recalling Gareth Batty, the Worcestershire off-spin bowler, in a twin spin attack for the fourth match if, as expected, the surface looks as slow as the previous three.