| Sajid Mahmood at the Kotla on Monday. (Reuters)
New Delhi: Sachin Tendulkar is in London for a surgery. Questions are being raised about an out-of-form Virender Sehwag’s ability to deliver the goods despite being declared fit to play. To cap it all, the entire team is still smarting from the Mumbai Test humiliation.
For any other team, this could have been one setback too many. But that’s unlikely to be the case for the Indians in the shorter version of the game. Having won ODI series’ against Sri Lanka and Pakistan hands down, and drawn with South Africa in between, Greg Chappell’s men looked a confident lot on Monday, the eve of the seven-match series which kicks off at the Kotla.
Rahul Dravid did speak about the void created by Tendulkar’s absence, but made it a point to also mention that there are others ready to take the responsibility. “Losing Sachin is tough, not only as a batsman, but also as a one-day bowler. He did a great job in Pakistan,” Dravid said. “But then, there are other players in the team. They all know their job and I am sure would rise to the occasion,” the Indian captain felt.
Dravid’s confidence is understandable. Players like Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Irfan Pathan have proved themselves to be top-class ODI performers time and again, while the likes of Suresh Raina, Rudra Pratap Singh and Sreesanth are coming up by leaps and bounds. Waiting in the wings for his maiden ODI cap is paceman Munaf Patel, who was quite a revelation in the recent Test series.
One would be tempted to label the hosts as overwhelming favourites, but it would be foolish to completely write off the visitors, especially after the kind of resilience they showed in the Test series with a depleted line-up.
England will once again be without some of their top stars like Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick, but in Andrew Flintoff they have a leader who has the ability to change the course of a match single-handedly.
In the Test series, Flintoff literally led from the front and bagged the Man-of-the-Series award as well as Man-of-the-Match trophy in Mumbai.Flintoff, though, did not have a good experience in Mumbai, where he was abused by a section of the crowd. “Playing in the subcontinent is always difficult. There are so much emotions involved. I hope the same things do not happen here,” he said.
This, incidentally, will be the first ODI after the scrapping of ICC’s experimental, and highly controversial, super sub rule.
Like most ODIs in India, the one at Kotla on Tuesday is likely to see a full house. While the demand for tickets is high, the demand for passes from different corridors of power is higher.
The organisers, as usual, are playing hide-and-seek and will surface only on the morning of the match. Given the past record at Kotla, the possibility of some chaos cannot be ruled out.
India (from): Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Venugopal Rao, Ramesh Powar, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel.
England (from): Andrew Strauss, Vikram Solanki, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff (captain), Kabir Ali, James Anderson, Gareth Batty, Ian Blackwell, Paul Collingwood, Matthew Hoggard, Geraint Jones, Sajid Mahmood, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior, Owais Shah.
Umpires: Asad Rauf, M.K. Shaiba. TV umpire: K. Hariharan.
Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama.
Match starts: 9 am