India hope format change revives fortunes
August 25, 2014
Start time 1030 local (0930 GMT)
A relentless examination that lasted five Tests and ended with three successive defeats is over, but some humiliating stats still follow India to the shorter format. They go into the ODI series against England having failed to win their last seven matches outside Asia.
The bowling not firing in those games was not a huge concern; that is the norm for India. The batting getting blown away in South Africa and failing to close out games in New Zealand was. India's batsmen regularly make up for the bowlers' shortcomings in home conditions. Unfortunately for them, the 2015 World Cup won't be played at home.
Starting from Bristol, India will want their batsmen to win a few games for them because after this series, it will be only a month to the World Cup by the time they play their next one outside Asia. Barring a couple of names in the top order, the core of the batting remains unchanged from the Tests. Which means personnel low on runs and down on confidence. The fresh arrivals - Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu - do not inspire much confidence as well.
The pair of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja has been a constant for India for a while now, whether at home or away. MS Dhoni's lack of faith in his fast bowlers and over-rate concerns have contributed to that, but how often can the duo win you games in these conditions? That is another question for India to answer in the couple of series available to work out their World Cup combinations.
England's recent one-day form hasn't been exciting either. They went down to Australia both home and away, the latter a 1-4 rout. They did beat West Indies in Antigua but slipped against Sri Lanka at home. They fought in that series alright, coming back from 99 all out at Chester-le-Street to demolishing the visitors for 67, but their batsmen made few big scores, and will want to show greater urgency against India.
Like India, several members of England's Test squad feature in the one-day side, and unlike India, they will bring with themselves baggage of the right kind.
Players to watch
Alex Hales has three centuries in his last three appearances for Nottinghamshire, to go with a century for England Lions against Sri Lanka A earlier this month. He has played 32 T20 internationals and is the only Englishman to make a hundred in the shortest format, but his rich domestic form could finally hand him that ODI debut.
Ajinkya Rahane has earned his place in the Test side with solid contributions in South Africa, New Zealand and England. ODIs have been a different story so far. He had one double-digit score in six innings in South Africa and New Zealand, although he made runs in Bangladesh after that. Runs in England could seal for him that middle-order spot at the World Cup.
Hales is expected to make his one-day debut as Alastair Cook's opening partner. Ian Bell is likely to drop down to No. 3 ahead of Gary Ballance for his one-day experience, while an allrounder will be required further down the order to make up for Ravi Bopara's bowling. Moeen Ali could also fill that role but, with the World Cup in mind, England may want to focus on their pace options to begin with which means Chris Woakes is likely. They will also look at how fit the players coming from the T20 finals are, and then decide the final XI.
England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Ian Bell, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Chris Woakes/Ben Stokes, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Chris Jordan, 9 James Tredwell, 10 James Anderson, 11 Harry Gurney
Suresh Raina was out of the ODI squad for a while, but returned as captain for the short tour to Bangladesh. He will likely slot in at No. 5. India do not have Varun Aaron's pace for the ODIs, but Umesh Yadav is a capable replacement on that front.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Umesh Yadav
Pitch and conditions
Bristol's first ODI in more than four years may not happen at all, with 100% chances of rain - 50-75mm - throughout Monday, according to weather.com. 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.
Stats and trivia
- India have a 3-0 record at Bristol, having beaten Kenya, Sri Lanka and England once each
- MS Dhoni is the only survivor from the India XI that played at Bristol in August 2007
- The previous ODI at Bristol was in July 2010, when England lost to Bangladesh by five runs
"We've got to remember they're world champions at 50 overs, so they obviously know what they're doing and will probably go into this as favourites. But if we play well, we're hard to beat in our conditions."
Alastair Cook is not taking India lightly despite thrashing them in the Test series.
"I think it has been 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."
MS Dhoni throws light on the short transition between formats.
Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo