Calcutta/Birmingham: When India take on England at Edgbaston on Tuesday, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be keen to wrap up the five-match ODI series, with a match still to go. For Dhoni, there will be a little more at stake, a personal landmark to reach. If India beat England, then Dhoni will become the country’s most successful captain in one-day Internationals. He is currently level with Mohammed Azharuddin, having won 90 matches.
India are also on the verge of winning a bilateral series in England, since 1990. It was in Birmingham last summer that India had lifted the Champions Trophy.
Trailing 0-2 in the series, Cook maintained that though England’s blueprint was sound, they needed a more solid foundation. They may just try Gary Balance at No.3 on Tuesday. Moeen Ali may also return to the ODI squad, possibly at the expense of Ben Stokes.
India, on the other hand, are most likely to go in unchanged unless there is a need to assess Mohit Sharma’s foot injury. Mohit bowled just three overs at Trent Bridge. In case he is declared unfit, then Umesh Yadav or Dhawal Kulkarni will get a look in.
At Edgbaston, during the last series against Sri Lanka, England had lost by six wickets. The pitch then was slow and dry, aiding the Lanka spinners. This time around, it is expected to be greener and less helpful to India’s slow bowlers. With no rain forecast, an entertaining match is expected.
Two impressive one-day victories have given India an unassailable 2-0 lead, and suddenly the drubbing in the Tests is a thing of the distant past. But Dhoni had hinted after victories in Cardiff and Nottingham that he wanted more from his bowlers. He was aware that England did not lose a wicket in the first 10 overs in Cardiff and for 17 overs in Nottingham.
Having said that, India are looking to clinch the one-day series in Birmingham, when they take on England for the penultimate ODI on Tuesday. Their confidence will stem from the fact that England have been unable to challenge them in the two matches played so far. The first ODI was washed out.
England had played like a completely different team in the Tests, but with the World Cup beckoning, their ODI squad is beset with problems. Alastair Cook batting at the top of the order has come under criticism. But, along with Alex Hales, he has put up two fifty-plus partnerships .
Cook’s captaincy had been under fire for a while, and the 3-1 Test series win had helped silence many critics. Yet, even his closest supporters -- read Graeme Swann -- do not believe that he should lead his country in the World Cup.
Cook has been criticised for being unimaginative as captain. He doesn’t feel the need to play two off-spinners in the same XI in ODIs and this conventional thinking has always led to England’s downfall in limited-overs cricket.
At Nottingham, England should not have allowed Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu to get the upper hand when they were deployed by Dhoni within the first 20 overs of the English innings. The score around that point was 80-odd for 1 wicket, and any other team would have shown attacking intent.
India had been able to put England on the mat, but the same team had struggled a lot in South Africa and New Zealand. And that has to be kept in mind as such conditions would be prevalent during the World Cup.
India’s openers had found it tough to get starts against more disciplined bowling attacks. The middle order couldn’t take the subsequent pressure and only Virat Kohli and Dhoni himself were among the runs in New Zealand.
India’s World Cup plans have been hit by Rohit Sharma’s finger injury. This is their last overseas ODI assignment before the tri-series in Australia later in January, a dress rehearsal for their title defence. As such they would have wanted Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan to play all these five matches. While one is out injured, the latter is struggling with form. In eight matches in South Africa, New Zealand and England, his scores are 12, 0, 32, 12 28, 9, 11 and 16. He is a shadow of the batsman he was in the Champions Trophy last year.
Ajinkya Rahane has often stepped in as part-time opener, but when both Rohit and Dhawan have been selected, he has batted at No. 4. At Trent Bridge, the think-tank opted for their part-time arrangement and moved Rahane up again. Ambati Rayudu cashed in on the opportunity with a superb innings.
India (likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma.
England (likely): Alastair Cook, Alex Hales, Ian Bell/Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Steven Finn, James Tredwell, James Anderson.
Match starts: 3 pm (IST)
Related reports: Page 14