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Indians have a score to settle & a point to prove

Calcutta/Rajkot: India have played four home series, in different formats, in the last few months and haven’t won any of them. On Friday, they will try to better that record when they take on England in the first of the five-match one-day series, in Rajkot.

And the way they won the last ODI against Pakistan, at the Kotla, one assumes that they haven’t yet forgot to fight.

Captain Dhoni has always been a fighter, in good days and bad. One can bet that he is desperate to see the glory days back. He has been leading from the front with his patiently carved innings in crisis and his tireless guard against the stumps. So the boys do not have to look too far for inspiration, they just need to believe that form is round the corner.

Batting, as the captain has pointed out often, has simply failed to fire. It’s not that line-up has changed drastically and there would be some magic on Friday. Except for Virender Sehwag, who has been dropped for poor form, almost all the other batsmen were there during the Pakistan series. But there has been an interesting addition in the form of Cheteshwar Pujara.

The Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Khandheri, outside Rajkot, will be making its international debut on Friday. Rajkot is Pujara’s home town, but still one is not sure whether, like the stadium, he too will make his ODI debut. If one goes by what Dhoni said at the media conference, Pujara’s ODI debut on Friday is very unlikely.

One is tempted to think that someone like Pujara is the right medicine for the Indian middle-order. But whom will he replace? Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Dhoni himself are almost certain to make the team. That leaves opener Ajinkya Rahane and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja as the vulnerable ones. So, it will be a very difficult choice for the captain.

India, currently ranked No.3 in the ICC ODI table, have a chance to do justice to their ‘world champions’ tag as a 5-0 clean sweep in the series will give them the No.1 spot. Ironically, England are the No.1 side at the moment and displacing them at the top would be an extremely satisfying experience for the Dhonis.

England will again be led by their victorious Test captain Alastair Cook, but their bowling attack appears inexperienced. The Indians wouldn’t be complaining though.

Teams

India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Shami Ahmed

England (from): Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Joseph Buttler, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Stuart Meakar, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Kevin Petersen, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.

Match starts: 12 noon