England Lions v Indians, ODI warm-up, Northampton August 17, 2007

A truer test of India's mettle



Mahendra Singh Dhoni: a surprise bowling option? © Getty Images
When asked at the toss which of his "stars" were being rested for the Glasgow one-dayer, India's captain Rahul Dravid joked: "Everyone's a star in this team. We can't leave them all out." All the same, the luminous ones that sat out - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan - weren't missed much, with their understudies shining bright in a seven-wicket win.

The lesser lights will be expected to sparkle in Northampton as well, when India take on England Lions in a one-day warm-up on Saturday. The Indians didn't have to break too much sweat in the Scottish challenge but they will expect more of a work-out here. Darren Maddy and Luke Wright have a mighty reputation in Twenty20 cricket while Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara get a chance to size up the Indians before the one-day series.

With Owais Shah and Vikram Solanki also in the starting line-up, England's line-up has more than a passing resemblance to the Twenty20 squad that has been selected for the inaugural World Championship in September. Consequently there will be a mixture of players such as Paul Nixon and Tim Bresnan who have points to prove after being overlooked, and the likes of Jeremy Snape and James Kirtley, who will be flushed with confidence after receiving their international call-ups.

India turned in a lukewarm bowling performance on Thursday, finding it tough to adjust to the chilly Glasgow winds, but they will be punished for similar waywardness here. Rohit Sharma, the talented young batsman from Mumbai, missed out at Glasgow but is almost certain to get his first chance here. Expect enthusiasm, athletic out-cricket and aggressive batting.

India played five bowlers against Scotland but they're strangely rigid about their part-time options. A few overs from non-specialist bowlers, especially in practice games, would be a good place to start. There are several options they can explore, one of the most intriguing being the idea of Dinesh Karthik keeping wicket and Mahendra Singh Dhoni rolling his arm over.

Dhoni is one of the most enthusiastic bowlers in the nets and, as he showed in a brisk three-over spell against Sri Lanka A at Leicester, he's always ready to bound in and deliver with energy. He can get it through at a decent pace, which is more than handy at the one-day level, and it would provide India another option in the future. He doesn't have the control of a front-line bowler but can occasionally surprise with the wicket-taking ball.

Yuvraj Singh is another man who should be bowling far more - the manner in which he foxed the Sri Lanka A batsmen at Leicester shouldn't be lost on anyone - and Sharma is capable of a couple of overs of handy offspin. Unless they try out these options in practice games, India will never know who to turn to when in trouble. As the Sri Lankans have shown over the years, part-time spin in the middle overs can be a matchwinning option.

India's field positions need fine-tuning as well. But already India are looking far more agile than they were in Tests. Piyush Chawla is a bubbly presence in the infield and he, along with Karthik and Yuvraj, need to carry the rest along. Munaf Patel, working his way back to match fitness, needs to be hidden well and Ramesh Powar used more in the infield. It's a long one-day season but India must start utilising their resources smartly.

India (likely) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Robin Uthappa, 3 Sourav Ganguly, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk, capt), 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Ramesh Powar, 10 Ajit Agarkar, 11 Munaf Patel.

England Lions (likely) 1 Vikram Solanki (capt), 2 Darren Maddy, 3 Ian Bell, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Owais Shah, 6 Luke Wright, 7 Tim Bresnan, 8 Paul Nixon (wk), 9 Jon Lewis, 10 Jeremy Snape, 11 James Kirtley.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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