Dhoni fanfare overtakes main event
Match factsJanuary 19, 2013
Start time 1200 (0630 GMT)
Big PictureChirkunda is a small border town in Dhanbad district of the Indian state of Jharkhand, where a future national icon came to play a local tennis-ball cricket tournament in the late 1990s. There are hundreds of towns like Chirkunda across Jharkhand, which has mostly made the news for Maoist unrest and political instability. And many people from many such towns will feel pride in the story of a boy from their capital Ranchi, who rose and rose from anonymity.
That boy, MS Dhoni, now returns to his hometown as India captain, World Cup winner, to play in Ranchi's first ODI. To say that Ranchi is an emotional place right now is an understatement. And it is not an overstatement to say that Ranchi gets whatever attention it does mostly because it produced Dhoni.
For the moment, between Ranchi and Dhoni, the series itself has taken a bit of a backseat. England, of course, will know that their bowlers have taken a battering, a good part of it from Dhoni himself, in both the previous ODIs in Rajkot and Kochi. While their batsmen managed to just outdo India's in the first ODI, they fell woefully short in the second, against swing and spin alike. The Kochi loss bore traces of the old England and why they have lost 17 of their previous 20 ODIs in India - unable to control the rampaging home batsmen and unable to tackle the sticky local conditions.
England already know that this is not exactly the India side of old, which was extremely difficult to overcome on home soil. The personnel, especially the batsmen, might not have changed drastically, but times certainly have for Dhoni and his team.
Form guide(Most recent first)
In the spotlightThousands lined the route from the Birsa Munda airport to the team hotel in Ranchi to catch a glimpse of MS Dhoni, who has said he wasn't expecting such a tremendous reception, and felt "humbled". Dhoni is one of the very few India cricketers to come somewhat close to Sachin Tendulkar in terms of popularity and adulation, as well as in his ability to shut himself off from it all. There is no doubt he could feel overwhelmed when he walks out to the middle in the city he grew up in. There is also no doubt that he won't allow his game to be affected by the emotions of the thousands who will be screaming out his name from the stands.
Kevin Pietersen is in some form. His magnificent 186 on a Mumbai turner proved that last November and the way he walked down the pitch and hit balls from off to leg in Rajkot and Kochi reinforces the case. But both those knocks have been terminated in the forties. Pietersen can't be denied for too long.
Team newsTim Bresnan missed the Kochi ODI with a niggle and, if fit, should return in place of Chris Woakes. Will England persist with Jade Dernbach? The fast bowler got the wicket of Dhoni in Rajkot and had kept India in check in the batting Powerplay before he and his bag of variations fell apart at the death.
England (possible) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Joe Root, 6 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 7 Samit Patel, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 James Tredwell, 10 Jade Dernbach/Stuart Meaker, 11 Steven Finn
Amid all the local excitement, Dhoni was hit on the right thumb while batting against the bowling coach Joe Dawes in the nets. That was the end of his practice as he received ice treatment, but he is expected to be fit to play. With Shami Ahmed not doing badly at all in the four overs he got in Kochi, India can be expected to stick to a winning combination.
India (possible) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Shami Ahmed.
Pitch and conditionsThe Jharkhand State Cricket Association stadium has hosted just two first-class games, both of which were drawn. The curator has been quoted as saying he expects the side batting first to make around 350 on the "sporting wicket". Winter has started to wind down in the east of the country, with Jharkhand experiencing milder weather over the past few days. The curator does not expect dew to be a major factor. A light drizzle is forecast for later in the evening.
Stats and trivia
- Before Rajkot, the last time England beat India in India in an ODI was in April 2006, in Ranchi's neighbouring city of Jamshedpur.
- Ranchi will become India's 42nd ODI venue.
Quotes"Very high marks, let's say nine out of ten. I haven't given a perfect ten because even the best can be improved ... the good players can become even better, so also stadiums and facilities."
MS Dhoni rates the new stadium in his hometown
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo