The same series was billed as the revenge series last year and the thing is pretty much the same today as this is their last chance to salvage some pride after failing to rise to the occasion in the Tests.
For England, this should be an exciting contest. They have to prove a thing or two about playing in sub-continent conditions under the sweltering heat, although they’d have an equal footing this time around owing to the climatic conditions this time of the year. Though England has won the Test series, we can’t truly assert that they have defeated the “spin-demons” for good. It is a litmus test of sorts, and a failure here would raise doubts on their talent and the Test series victory would be termed as luck and one-off; things that skipper Alastair Cook wouldn’t want to hear.
Both India and England have their own demons to conquer, and I feel that it is going to be a battle within oneself, rather against two teams because many players are under the pump to cement their place in the side. They would have to perform for themselves, if not for the team. In that context, I would like to list out the stakes and the consequences depending on the results.
India: Virender Sehwag has already been sacked, and it is only a matter of time or the lack of performance from Gambhir to follow suit. He is under immense pressure to prove that he has still got the zeal that made him famous for a couple of years back. Gambhir should re-invent himself, trying to cut down on his shots, he should rather focus on playing himself in. If he manages to do that, it would be like a pat on his back from himself, and he would find his confidence building. An in-form Gambhir is always an asset for any team!
Ajinkya Rahane, on the other hand, should use this opportunity to push Sehwag out of the team once and for all. This is Rahane’s best chance at staking a claim for an opener’s slot and a failure here would lead to his ouster from the eleven back to the bench and he’d have to start all over again, a thing he would be dreading for sure.
England: Cook would be hard-pressed to make a choice to select the best opening combination, now that Pietersen has made a spectacular comeback against India in the Test series. Bell, on the other hand has been a prolific opener and Cook would be spoilt for choice to choose the best combination, being an opener himself. He’d probably prefer to have a left-right combination and it would be interesting to see who would be asked to step down.
Cook would probably under pressure as a batsman to perform, but, on that account he could tick a box because he is the best batsman that England has got presently. But a failure as a batsman or as a skipper would directly affect the performance of the other and indirectly affect the team.
India: The sure starters for the first ODI would be Pujara, Kohli, Raina, Yuvraj, and Dhoni. The middle order barring Dhoni and Raina to some extent hasn’t fired in the last series, and they are crucial to India’s chances if the openers comes cropper.
Pujara shouldn’t be judged as yet since this is only his debut series, and while Dhoni and Raina plough on with their task like they have done always, the spot light falls on the comeback man Yuvraj Singh. Barring a couple of half-centuries, Yuvraj has not done much to stake a claim in the limited overs side or in any side for that matter. Yes, he scored a scintillating 70 against Pakistan in the T20 series, but that is all there is about him for now, and if he wants to keep his place in the side his bat should start doing all the talking.
Virat Kohli has finally climbed down the stairs from heaven, and he has finally begun to understand the troubles of being a mortal cricketer. But, with the talent that he possesses, coming back to form would require only a few balls. India would have its saviour back, if he manages to do that. Fail, he would lose his vice-captaincy and would be put under the scanner.
Ravindra Jadeja could have a look in if the skipper decides to drop a pacer, and Jadeja role as a finisher would be as significant as Dhoni’s since he has the extra burden of playing the rescuing act if the plan goes amiss. Jadeja, like Rohit has been bestowed with yet another chance and he would do well to grab that with both his hands and legs if it is possible.
England: They are either going to be heroes after this tour or the reason for shame, for England’s middle-order has a history of faltering against the spinners. But, they can rest easy knowing that Ashwin isn’t in the best of form, and the chief tormentor during the tests, Pragyan Ojha is on a “well-deserved” break. But, again, like they say, it is easier said than done. The batsmen, especially the trio of Trott, Pietersen and Morgan should be solid enough to face up to the hostile spinners.
India: It would be interesting to see whether India employs a three pronged attack like they did against Pakistan because England would be more than up for the pace challenge as it is their bread and butter. It would be an acid test of sorts for the young and inexperienced bowling line-up. A success or failure here could make or break their careers for Kumar and Ahmed, though both of them would not make the cut in the first ODI. Ahmed would be the unlucky bowler to warm the bench to accommodate a spinner, in my opinion.
England: England has filed-up their arsenal with some tidy fast bowlers including Finn, Meaker, Woakes, Bresnan, Broad and Dernbach. Probably, they are trying to stick to their strengths and it is almost certain that they would go in with four quickies with Bresnan and Broad doubling up as the all-rounders. Finn was the lone success, the previous time he toured India, and it would be fascinating to see the amount of success he is going to have. He would be pretty pumped up since he had to bear the pain of warming the bench due to an untimely injury.
Dernbach on the other hand, would prove to be a tricky customer, especially in the death overs when his variations would come in handy against the Indian tail-enders. They have some experience in the form of Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad, whose contribution would be vital in deciding the fate of the series. They would be expected to deliver also with the bat, and their credentials would be put under the scanner this time around.
India: India would feel a little confident having a decent bowling line-up. Dhoni wouldn’t think twice before arming himself with spinners, and the part-timers are going to be crucial to our chances as well, as the skipper has mostly gone with the seven-four combination. Jadeja would be a trump card against the English top order which has historically known to have struggled against left- arm bowling. Ashwin would do well to stick to the basics and bowl a tight line. He has to brace himself for some unorthodox shot making from the Englishmen, and bowling an off-stump line would be the key to keep the English batsmen in check.
England: They’d probably be left with a sour taste after they go back home for not picking Panesar. But it is irrelevant to cry about spilt milk. England has some exciting talent in the form of James Tredwell and Danny Briggs. They are quite unknown in this part of the world, and adapting to the conditions is going to prove difficult for them. Tredwell should be wary when facing against the likes of Yuvraj and MS Dhoni as they are known for their exploits against spinners. Samit Patel would be a useful addition as he is knowledgeable playing in this conditions. He would come in handy as the spinning all-rounder, but he has got lots to prove in the coming days.
India and England have a mix of talent, but what’s in paper can’t translate on the field unless you are ready to take the necessary steps to make the needful transition. India would be raring to avenge their defeats and England would be looking continue from where they left, and any hiccup would be dealt with severely by India. No time for mistakes or lapses. It’s perform or perish!