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Indians hoping for a change in fortunes

- Rain threat over first ODI in Bristol today
Virat Kohli

Calcutta/Bristol: India will look to put behind the disappointment of the Test series and salvage lost pride when they take on England in a five-match ODI series starting here on Monday.

These are uncertain, and interesting, times for the team. A new team director in Ravi Shastri along with assistant coaches — Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and Ramakrishnan Sridhar — is sure to ring in fresh ideas for the side.

They have time before the World Cup and will need to balance their approach keeping in mind the quadrennial showpiece.

That tournament, to be hosted by Australia and New Zealand, is now less than six months away. From here onwards, every ODI played by the Indian team will be a preparatory step towards defending their 2011 title.

And to do so, they will be evaluating players in the three ODI series between now and the World Cup — in England, at home against the West Indies and then the tri-series Down Under.

The Indian selectors have taken stock of the situation and the 17-man squad is a reflection of their thoughts. Sanju Samson and Karn Sharma represent their line of thinking in that the squad will need an additional wicket-keeper as well as a probable third spin-bowling all-rounder option.

But there is a question-mark over how many opportunities these two youngsters will get in the current five-match series.

Starting with the latter, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin will fill up the two spin options in the playing XI. Earlier this year in New Zealand, in the fourth ODI at Hamilton, Stuart Binny was introduced as an alternate and his exploits in Bangladesh showed that he would remain one in conditions that assist swing.

However India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a little circumspect about using the four-pacer option as it slows down the over-rate.

It will be interesting to see if he will opt for two spinners straightaway, irrespective of the conditions in Bristol, given that Binny didn’t get to bowl in the warm-up game against Middlesex on Friday.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami are expected to be the first-choice bowlers. But who will partner them isn’t clear. They are spoilt for choice this time as well, with Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma and Dhawal Kulkarni to choose from.

Dhoni is hoping the younger crop of players will learn from their mistakes in the Test series and the change in format will work well.

“I think it will be relatively easy. The reason being newer generation of cricketers of course feel hurt and disappointed when they don’t do well, but at the same time they realise the importance of leaving a tough series behind them and taking the learnings from it. That’s what makes them positive. That’s what helps them improve,” said the Team India captain.

Bristol’s first ODI in more than four years may not happen at all, with 100 per cent chances of rain — 50-75mm — throughout Monday. There are no floodlights at the ground, so light is likely to be an issue too. There is some green on the pitch but not much.

India’s ODI form outside Asia and the West Indies — similar slow pitches as back home — has been awful except for the Champions Trophy win last year. Even counting those five wins, India have won eight and lost 13 of their ODIs in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand since the last World Cup.

TEAMS

India (likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.

England (likely): Alastair Cook, Alex Hales, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Chris Woakes/Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan, James Tredwell, James Anderson, Harry Gurney.

Match starts: 3 pm (IST).