India v England, 1st ODI, Rajkot January 10, 2013

Plenty of Indian problems to resolve


One of India's major problems in the just-concluded ODI series against Pakistan was the repeated top-order collapses against some high-quality bowling from Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan. Even Virat Kohli, who has had as purple a patch in ODIs as anyone has ever had, faltered. Virender Sehwag is already a casualty, and his limited-overs career is at a crossroads, if not an end. Gautam Gambhir's weakness against the moving ball was in the limelight once again, prompting murmurs over his place in the side as well.

India have also only had two 50-run opening stands in 19 ODIs over the past 12 months, something they are trying to fix by bringing in Ajinkya Rahane, who is set for an extended run after an eternity carrying drinks.

"The stats suggest that for quite some time we have not got off to a very good," MS Dhoni said ahead of the first ODI against England in Rajkot. "Yes, the openers have been scoring runs on and off, but we have not been able to get a good partnership between them. One of them has been getting out. We are hoping to get good starts in this series. Jinx [Rahane] is the new opener. He has played on and off and done decently well."

Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh were two others who had series to forget against Pakistan but one thing in favour of some of the struggling batsmen is that Rajkot is synonymous with big runs, regularly in the news for the latest colossal score from Ravindra Jadeja or Cheteshwar Pujara.

India's totals in the previous two ODIs in the city, though at the old Madhavrao Scindia Stadium, are 414 for 7 and 387 for 5. Though Friday's match will be played at the swank new ground in the city's outskirts, that too promises to be full of runs. The last limited-overs tournament played here was the Challenger Trophy, where not only were 300-plus scores the norm, those totals were almost chased down on occasions as well.

The flip side of a flat track is the magnifying lens it puts on bowlers. While the batting is brimful of experience, several of the quick bowlers are in the infancy of their international careers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was outstanding in his debut Twenty20 in Bangalore last month and sparked plenty of excitement, but at his military-medium pace, on tracks with little movement, he could be in for a difficult time. Shami Ahmed has had only one game so far and Ishant Sharma's propensity to leak runs has meant he hasn't been a regular in the ODI side for nearly three years.

One other plus for India is that Dhoni's personal form was exceptional in the Pakistan series, as it has been for much of his ODI career, providing some welcome respite for the under-fire captain. "I never question my ability… Self-belief is something that's very important. Especially in a team sport, it's important that everybody keeps believing in themselves and understands the roles and responsibilities they've got."

It has been a difficult month for Dhoni, with only two days to digest the morale-sapping Test series defeat to England before shifting his focus to the Twenty20s, two days after which cricketing ties with India's bitterest rivals resumed. Now, just three days after Pakistan left as victors, he's back at the start of a new series. And if he thought the England ODIs would be somewhat low-profile, he would have changed his mind after seeing the thousands who turned up outside the team hotel to catch a glimpse of their stars.

There have been suggestions, including from Rahul Dravid, that perhaps the time has come for Dhoni, who has long performed the triple-role of leader, batsman and wicketkeeper, to give up captaincy in at least one of the formats. It's not an idea Dhoni agrees with though, as of now. "We'll have to wait and watch. It's not something that's on my mind before the start of an important series. We can't be thinking about that now."

The last time India lost a live home ODI against England was way back in 2002, when Andrew Flintoff waved his shirt in celebration at the Wankhede Stadium, an act that was famously echoed by Sourav Ganguly at Lord's the next year. The previous two ODI series in India between the two sides have ended in 5-0 drubbings for England. Alastair Cook has rightly termed his team as underdogs going into the series but India have already seen one proud 28-year-old record fall this season, and have plenty to sort if they aren't to lose another.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Saju on January 12, 2013, 4:21 GMT

    Jadeja is not performing well or taking responsibility to win a match. He plays very well in the IPL, but never for the National team. Ashwin has been failing continously, he is neither taking wickets nor controlling the run rate. Ishant sharma had been given plenty of chances and he is still under performing. Sreeshanth should be given a chance. Sreeshanth had performed well in his comeback mathces.

  • Khawaja on January 11, 2013, 10:14 GMT

    i agree more wirh sudhir than with kirangupta...i think u shud sent out an SOS to south africa for any spare fast bowlers...just like england and new zealand...on a flat batting track indian fast bowlers will find it difficult against a good batting side like england...india do need a smasher in teh top order and i wud think delhis shikar dhawan wud be ppreferable...he has hit four centuries in teh last few months and that should eb enough to include him...however pujara and rahane can bat on this pitch with kohli an dhoni backing up..jadeja shud be encouraged to bat and spin teh bowl...even the new fast bowler has a good batting average

  • k on January 11, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    I'm sure thr must be some plan in giving those jadeja's,R sharma's,Dinda chance aftr will make thm more experience guys in the team and aftr couple of years they ll be picked as experience players...leaving out more deserving once...its best now to over haul the whole team..aftr the 2011 world cup we need a new set of hungry players to win the cup for india

  • k on January 11, 2013, 8:04 GMT

    @kc69..i fully agreed with u !!.......long with him Thr is no place for sir Ravindra jadeja ,Sir Rohit sharma and Danger Dinda in playing XI...but thats our misfortune to watch thr crap day aftr day!!

  • J on January 11, 2013, 5:48 GMT

    @Nampally - Gambhir cannot keep his place in the team based on form and results over the past year, and you want him as part of the "selection panel" within the team!! Interesting, but then we would loose, whatever slim chance we have right now, of fielding our best XI.

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2013, 5:44 GMT

    @ hfiery89 Finn who? Kohli spanked Finn last year even getting an ODI ton in England. Who told you that Finn did well against Kohli?

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2013, 5:21 GMT

    Well England also must be discussing the same thing in the dressing room, this could be one rumor Dhoni is playing safely to make English Camp to confused.

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2013, 3:15 GMT

    Well Sehwag should still be persisted. He is an enigma as he could burst into form from out of thin air .blip bloop that he is. Dhoni should be persisted with as captain . Please remember he also as a cricketer learns his lessons but this time rocky lessons have to be learnt. He knows that it is still his responsibility to rebuild the team and like the Phoenix. Rise from the ashes.

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2013, 2:03 GMT

    My personal XI will be PUJARA opening & anchoring the innings ,with Rahane !Virat, Dhoni, Yuvi, Raina,Manoj Tiwari, Ahwin,Irfan Pathan,B.Kumar,Ishant/Sreeshanth...Dhoni shld definitely bat up the order whilst Irfan Pathan -d all rounder should be used more productively......Gambir can come into open if Puajra is unfit....

  • hari on January 11, 2013, 1:05 GMT

    @Nampally, so Kohli can smash the best all over the world, but can't play Finn.. pretty interesting...