RAJKOT: Their egos battered after the debacle against arch-foes Pakistan, India hardly have any time to reflect and plug the loopholes but an inexperienced England attack gives the hosts a slight edge in the five-match ODI series starting today.
The 1-2 loss to Pakistan had exposed chinks in the Indian batting armour, forcing the selectors to omit off-colour opener Virender Sehwag and replace him with in-form local hero Cheteshwar Pujara in the squad to take on England in the first three games.
The consolation victory over Pakistan in a low-scoring thriller in the final game in bitterly cold conditions was a desperately-needed shot in the arm for the Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men ahead of the rubber against England, which earlier whipped the hosts 2-1 in the four-game Test series.
England will again be led by their victorious Test skipper Alastair Cook but their bowling attack, without the presence of several key Test bowlers, appears inexperienced and could be just the tonic needed by the bruised Indian batting line-up to get back into the groove.
Barring Dhoni, who scored a ton and a half ton in totalling 203 runs in the three games against Pakistan, it was a collective batting failure by the Indian top-order in which Suresh Raina, with a modest tally of 92 runs with 43 as his best score, emerged as the second-best batsman.
Opener Gautam Gambhir, who escaped the axe in the aftermath of the series defeat, his Delhi teammate Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh were flops against Pakistan whose pace attack severely dented their confidence.
But against the less-experienced England pace attack, led by Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn, the same set of batsmen ought to flourish, especially on what promises to be a batting-friendly playing surface.
The old ground in this city, the Madhavrao Scindia race course ground, was known for its placid tracks and in the last ODI game played here in 2008, the England pace attack was hit all over the park by Gambhir, Sehwag and Yuvraj, who cracked a 78-ball 138 with 6 sixes and 16 fours in it.
That attack comprised of James Anderson, India’s nemesis in Tests who is absent from the ODI series, Stuart Broad, available only for the last two games of the current rubber, and the retired duo of Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison.
The current new-ball attack comprising Bresnan, Finn, Stuart Meaker and Jade Dernbach does not appear as lethal as the one that was smashed to smithereens by the Indian batsmen four years ago.
“It will be good to see the Indian batsmen getting some confidence back (after their poor display against Pakistan bowlers) and the track will suit the batsmen. Scores in excess of 300 are expected,” said a top official of the Saurashtra Cricket Association about the pitch at the newly built SCA Stadium.
It remains to be seen whether Pujara, who goes into the game with a triple century for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal game against Karnataka, would be fitted into the eleven. For England, like it was the case in the Test rubber, a series triumph would result in re-writing history after nearly three decades.
MS Dhoni (Captain), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Shami Ahmed
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.