Giles focus on long-term goals
There may be moments over the next couple of weeks when England's new limited-overs coach, Ashley Giles, could be forgiven for wondering what he has let himself in for.
As a coterie of well-known coaches try to fill the cosy position Giles has just vacated at Edgbaston, he has opted for the road less-travelled with England. It will not be easy: starting an international coaching career with an ODI series in India is akin to starting a wrestling career with a bout against a Minotaur.
It was a brave decision to take the England role. Giles had a job for life at Warwickshire. He remains hugely popular at the club and deeply respected. Yet he has given that up to test himself at a higher level and in a world where he will once more be subjected to tired jibes about wheelie bins and his record as a player. It is hard to imagine a tougher start to his new career.
England's ODI record in India is so awful that the squeamish should look away now: England have been whitewashed 5-0 in both their last two ODI series in India. They have not won any of their last 13 ODIs against India in India. They have not won an ODI against India in India since 2006 - when the likes of Vikram Solanki and Ian Blackwell were in the team - and they have only ever won one series in India, way back in 1984.
To make matters worse for Giles, England have lost both warm-up games and he is without three first choice players: Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann and James Anderson. All are enjoying a period of rest ahead of a busy year. It is hard to be wildly optimistic about England retaining their No. 1 ODI ranking by the end of the month.
But whatever the challenges of the next few weeks, Giles needs to keep his eye on longer-term goals. England's primary aim in one-day cricket for 2013 is to win the Champions Trophy, in England, in June and, further into the future, to win the World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand, in 2015.
They are relatively well equipped to do it, too, with the changes in playing regulations - a new ball from each end, two bouncers per over and an obligatory extra fielder inside the circle - adding to home advantage and the consequent familiarity in conditions that should benefit them.
Just as importantly, England are close to finding a settled team. Already, nearly six months ahead of the Champions Trophy, it is possible to predict nine of England's likely XI in the first game with, in approximate batting order, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn and James Anderson all but certain to figure. With role definition such an important part of limited-overs cricket, that stability provides England with an excellent opportunity to familiarise themselves with their jobs over the next few months. June may well present their best ever chance of winning that elusive global ODI competition.
It also means that the greatest long-term significance of the ODI series against India may be in ascertaining the final couple of positions and potential replacements for the Champions Trophy team. While conditions in India bear little comparison to those in England or Australia and New Zealand, Giles and co. will at least be able to take a closer look at some contenders in the heat of battle.
The most obvious issues that require resolving are the identity of the wicketkeeper and the identity of the fifth bowler. Craig Kieswetter's stock has fallen of late, though a glance at the statistics suggests that may be unfair. Since he was moved down the order at the start of the year, Kieswetter has actually averaged 33.83 with the bat - a decent effort for a middle-order player, though a figure boosted by a third of his innings being not out - and shown an ability to both rebuild the innings and accelerate when appropriate. His keeping, while raw, is improving and remains secure as either of his two main rivals: Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow, whose absence may allow Buttler an opportunity to demonstrate that his explosive batting should earn him the position. He has already displaced his Somerset teammate, Kieswetter, as England's T20 wicketkeeper, though many would argue that Matt Prior remains a wasted talent in the limited-overs formats.
Tim Bresnan is another who finds himself struggling, in the longer-term, to retain his place in the face of a challenge from Chris Woakes, Stuart Meaker, Jade Dernbach or a second spinner such as Samit Patel or James Tredwell. While Bresnan's Test form in 2012 was modest - averaging 17.14 with the bat and 55.43 with the ball - his ODI form stood up better. He conceded just under a run-a-ball in 2012 and claimed 13 wickets at a cost of 26.61 a piece. While such figures may not grab too many headlines, none of his rivals currently offer undeniable claims that they could do better.
Whatever the slings and arrows of the next few weeks, Giles will cope. As a player, he experienced extremes of success and failure and, as Warwickshire coach, he learned to maintain his composure whatever the result. He endured some awful ones, too, including losses to Ireland and Scotland, and some batting collapses so dramatic that it appeared his team, so strong on paper, was actually made of the stuff. He has also coped equably with serious family illness. By comparison, the ups and downs of a cricket team really do not amount to all that much.
"We're here to develop and find out more about these guys and if at the end of it we lose the series and each player has moved on five per cent through the experience then we're doing our jobs," Giles said. "Let's not beat around the bush, it is a challenge but one the guys should be looking forward to."
There may well be an element of phony war about the series. With a young India side desperate to avenge the perceived humiliation of the Test series loss against England and the ODI series loss against Pakistan, the importance of every result may be magnified far beyond its true relevance. Whatever happens over the five ODIs, though, if England are able to identify the last couple of places in their ODI side, they can consider the trip a success.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo