Jack Bannister warns the England batsmen may find life becoming unbearable if bowlers crumble in India...

England captain Michael Vaughan claims he is glad to move into a new calendar year after last year's euphoric Ashes victory which prompted a totally disproportionate reaction, culminating in a governmental embarrassing award of honours.

That reveals more about No 10's bandwagon tendencies than the merits of cricketers such as Paul Collingwood being decorated for one Test appearance.

Pakistan was a culture shock, not helped by the comings and goings of three key cricketers - one of which was not due to injury (Andrew Strauss) and looks like being repeated in India when Andrew Flintoff is odds on to settle for paternity leave ahead of playing in the third Test in Mumbai on March 21.

Vaughan supports the inevitable disruption of the tour - he could hardly do otherwise after two such absences himself in the last two years - with a tongue-in-cheek comment which borders on the fatuous. "Perhaps we shall be 2-0 up."

Pakistan put that into perspective by beating England and, so far, have had the better of their sporting war with India.

At least Vaughan's appraisal of his next task in India is more realistic. He says: "Ashley Giles being fit is massive because you would hope he would bowl a lot of overs so we can rotate the seamers at the other end."

Not so much a whistle in the wind as a screech. The Warwickshire spinner is entitled to feel that he is being put under unfair pressure because the England management know he has only a minimal chance of flying out with the squad in 13 days' time.

The medics are making their usual mistake of not recognising the difference between post-operative recovery time from a stress injury brought on by a peculiarity in a bowling action and an actual tear of a muscle, ligament or tendon.

They failed to do so with Darren Gough and Flintoff before the last Ashes tour; with Flintoff 12 months ago in South Africa and again in Pakistan and, most culpable of all, with Simon Jones between last summer's fourth and fifth Tests.

They kidded themselves (and Jones) that he had a reasonable chance of playing in the final Test. He had no chance, as this correspondent made clear to readers and at least one selector. Not only was he ruled out without being able to bowl in the nets, he was also unable to play in Pakistan more than two months later.

He still has the same problem as Giles with his hip in that his right ankle spur was caused by the drag part of his action. It is only a matter of time before it recurs. Yet Vaughan ploughs on in seemingly blissful ignorance.

He says: "Simon is our best exponent of reverse swing, although the Indian SG ball hardly ever reverses. In 2001 it swung conventionally in Mohali but usually only fades in with reverse and not outwards. If that happens, batsmen can play it easily but, if they think it might go away like it did for us against Australia, you're talking a different game. Simon is a big player for us."

He is now but as recently as Edgbaston in that two-run nail-biter Vaughan did not give him a single over on that historic Sunday morning - he had bowled beautifully in the first Test. It was only at Old Trafford that Vaughan was converted to belief in a natural wicket-taker.

A brief interpretation of orthodox and reverse swing; orthodox comes from a newish ball swinging away from the shine. i.e., a right-hand bowler will move the ball towards the slips away from the shine facing leg-side.

An inswinger to the right-handed batsman moves from off to leg away from the shine facing the off-side. Reverse comes when the ball is roughened on one side to create a lighter side in weight and thus swings towards the shine; i.e., an inswinger comes towards the shine facing leg-side and the outswinger when the shine faces off-side, with the air pushing the lighter side that way.

At Edgbaston on the the third day Flintoff had the ball perfectly primed (rough and smooth) and bowled a magnificent over to Ricky Ponting in which he beat the bat four times with bamboozling reverse swing before he got his man.

The captain rightly says that England's best chance in India is to win the toss and build a big enough total to put the home batsmen under pressure.

The likes of Flintoff and Kevn Pietersen will have to bat differently to do that - the trick being to mix and match their natural aggression with the ability to sit in when high-class spin cannot be whacked all over the place.

Vaughan also knows that, mostly, the bowlers performed adequately in Pakistan but the batsmen did not. If the bowlers crumple, the batsmen will find life verging on the unbearable.

He says: "I think we lacked quality in certain areas. They had a bowler who could bowl 95mph when ours could only reach 88mph and they had a wrist-spinner. We couldn't reverse it both ways and they looked more likely to take 20 wickets than we did."

He is not surprised to learn that only two sides have won in India in the last seven years - Australia and South Africa. The latter shows that it can be done without a spinner, providing that basic disciplines of the game are unswervingly followed.

The problem is that if Giles does not play in the series -and it must make sense to ease him back into bowling via ten overs at a time in the seven ODIs - England are short of over-my-dead-body type of cricketers.

The captain and Marcus Trescothick qualify, as does Strauss and Ian Bell among the batsmen. The problem arises in the engine room from Nos 5-8, assuming Giles does not make it.

It is not in the nature of Flintoff, Pietersen, Geraint Jones and Ian Blackwell to block out a day, as is often necessary on the sub-continent. That is why England lost that crucial first Test in Multan and why they are unlikely to prosper in India.

The next couple of months for England will sort out a few fringe characters who, before year's end, might be looking ruefully at that decoration.