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Thursday, August 21, 2014

England Tour 2014 - India starts its ODI sojourn...now what?

The Indian team for the ODI leg of its English tour was announced during the test series. Quite a few new faces, which in hindsight (after the test series), is a good idea so that fresh energy can be inducted into a squad that is feeling the effects of a long series.

The squad is as follows:
Openers - Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane (in case Dhawan's poor form continues). From the current thinking, I feel that Dhawan will be given the warm-up match (on 22nd against Middlesex) as well as first two ODI's to prove his form. If he continues to fail, Rahane will open the batting with Rohit. I feel that Rohit will get all the five matches, especially as he received only one opportunity in the test series. The openers will have their technique tested against the in-form English bowlers (even though Stuart Broad has been rested from this series). Rahane will get a chance to play in the opening position only, as there are other options in the middle.

Middle-order batsmen - Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Sanju Samson, MS Dhoni. Kohli will be the focus of all during this series, especially since this is a format he has excelled in recent times - an average of 50+ in ODI's and 45+ in England ODI's (though it has been helped by the matches during Champions Trophy) will be tested thoroughly. If he can regain some of his image that he lost during the test series, he will end the tour a relieved man. Raina will bring in the energy and fielding expertise into the squad that was missing in the last few matches (as well as bowling few key overs during the slog). It will be interesting to see Rayudu and Anderson against each other (for they are built of the same cloth!). Samson should get few chances to test him against high-quality bowlers but at the moment, the Indian team's motive is to win the series (which means that he might be on the reserves mostly).

Bits and pieces players (not exactly all-rounders) - Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Karn Sharma, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (on the basis of the just concluded test series). Bhuvi should be brought back (if required) only after the first three matches - he should be merely a tourist till then. That is the minimum the Indian team management can reward him with. Jadeja and Ashwin will start while Karn and Binny will be the back-up after the initial set of matches for poor form.

Pace bowlers - Mohammed Shami(29 ODIs), Mohit Sharma (8 ODIs), Umesh Yadav (31 ODIs), Dhawal Kulkarni. Inexperience is written all over this squad, especially the bowlers (even in ODI scenario). Shami seems to be struggling (based on reports) and hence he might not star in the lineup. Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma will be the likely duo who will open the bowling based on their exploits in recent days. Kulkarni can be a handful in these conditions but his pace will be almost the same as Bhuvi (35 ODIs). Umesh will provide the extra pace but will it be enough?

Based on the pitches and weather conditions (Bristol, Cardiff, Nottingham, Birmingham and Leeds will host the matches), the Indian team's performance will vary. Of course, Ravi Shastri's recent appointment will see the Indian team in a different light (hopefully better one). Dhoni will be back in his best form in a format that he relishes - revenge will definitely be on his mind but does he have the arsenal to attack as well as the mind to challenge? That will dictate the results of the ODI series.
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