Sunday, January 15, 2017 Start time 1330 local (0800 GMT)
Agarkar: Can't leave out Yuvraj after picking him in the squad
The cricketing gods must be crazy. We are living in an era where India are regularly winning Test series 3-0 and 4-0, having done so only twice in their history until 2012. In ODIs, on the other hand, they are not starting as favourites in a home series against England even after beating them 4-0 in Tests. England are not the clear favourites either, but it says a lot about their metamorphosis since the 2015 World Cup that they start on even terms against a side that has beaten them in four of the last five bilateral ODI series and is 17-8 in recent ODI cricket between them. And England are not apologetic about pushing the boundaries in ODIs independent of how the Test side is performing.
India and MS Dhoni have recognised that they, for a change, need motivation from their Test side. That the split captaincy doesn't work. So Virat Kohli, who has tasted early success in Tests, takes over an ODI side that is desperately in need of new ideas and match-winners in the middle order.
England have batting match-winners all the way down. Which is why they keep coming at you with the big shots, the switch hits and the reverse-sweeps. India will look to bat more clinically, relying as they do on a smaller base of batsmen, especially given Rohit Sharma's absence. Either way there will be runs. A lot of them.
The contest, though, will come down to the bowlers. One spell of 10 overs for 45 runs or one extra wicket in the middle overs. England will rely more on discipline of their pace bowlers, India on the spinners. A flat pitch will give England the advantage, and the slightest hint of slowness or turn will give India control. The day-night warm-up match played at the Brabourne Stadium between an England XI and India A showed a lot of what to expect: Chris Woakes and David Willey were tight at the start, keeping India A down to 304, and India A came back in their defence through the spin of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. England XI scored 156 for 1 off the 24.5 overs bowled by the quicks, and 148 for 6 in 24 overs of spin.
The pitches for ODIs, though, are generally flat. And India wouldn't necessarily want too much help for the spinners: they wouldn't want to be chasing 250 on turning pitches, as demonstrated in the defeats against New Zealand in Delhi and Ranchi, and Adil Rashid cannot be underestimated in ODIs. Early starts to the matches - 1.30pm as opposed to 2.30pm in earlier years - should make dew and the toss less of a factor. Hopefully.
India WLWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first) England WLWLW
In the spotlight
Dhoni has had his share of eulogies. Now the attention must shift to Virat Kohli. He operates differently to India's most successful limited-overs captain. His first call of duty will be to deal with Dhoni's batting order. Will he give Dhoni a long stint at No. 4 and start looking for other finishers? What plans does he have for Yuvraj Singh? How is he going to utilise his Test talisman R Ashwin, who had seemingly fallen out of favour with Dhoni in the final stages of his captaincy? Does Ajinkya Rahane have a place in India's ODI plans when everybody is fit? And Kohli will have to keep winning matches with the bat while he does all that thinking.
Kohli's counterpart Eoin Morgan, on the other hand, is going through a bit of a Dhoni patch in a batting line-up full of power hitters. He is often required in pressure situations and during good times he hardly gets enough balls to face to register big innings. His last century came in June 2015, he has averaged 38.00 since then and has won one match award in 25 matches. These numbers by themselves shouldn't put him under pressure, but he has scored 3 and a golden duck in the tour games after Sam Billings impressed as his replacement when he opted out of the Bangladesh tour. He too will now have decisions and runs to make.
India's squad looks completely different to the one that beat New Zealand 3-2. The two Test spinners are back, and Yuvraj is part of the 15 too. Looking at England's struggle against spin in practice games, India could look to stack the side up with batsmen who bowl part-time spin. Manish Pandey could make way for Yuvraj but where does the man in irrepressible form, KL Rahul, fit? One way out could be to give up on Hardik Pandya or Umesh Yadav and rely on Yuvraj and Kedar Jadhav for 10 overs. Otherwise one out of the returning Rahane, Rahul and the returning Shikhar Dhawan might have to sit out. And does Kohli make the call of sitting out Amit Mishra, the spinner who took five wickets in his last ODI, just because the Test spinners are back?
As they suggested with their line-ups in the warm-up games, England could look to play six batsmen, including the allrounder Ben Stokes and the wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, and five bowlers. This means they might have to make more than one difficult decision, and leave out both Sam Billings, who scored a match-winning 93 in the first warm-up game, as well as the in-form Jonny Bairstow.
England (probable): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Joe Root, 4 Jos Buttler (wk), 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 David Willey, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Liam Plunkett/Liam Dawson
Pitch and conditions
The pitch is expected to be a regular ODI surface where 300 from both sides cannot be counted out. Two days before the match India's coach Anil Kumble said there hadn't been any dew until 7.30pm but you cannot be certain in this time of year in India when dew usually affects day-night games. If the dew does show up at around 8pm, it still has an hour and a half to play havoc in, and the last 90 minutes of an ODI can often sway the result.
Stats and trivia
In four matches against India, Alex Hales averages 23 and has struck at 68.65 per 100 balls as against corresponding overall numbers of 37.77 and 94.49. In 2014, India choked his off-side game by cramping him with straight inswingers.
England have won only one bilateral series in India in eight attempts, back in 1984.
This is only the second ODI at this venue: in the first, Australia scored 304 and defended comfortably.
I was actually pretty delighted to be given the captaincy for all the three formats. It adds to the responsibility and makes you a better player, a better person; that's something I have always liked that aspect of captaincy. Virat Kohli can't wait to go out to toss on Sunday
You wake up on the weekend and all you wanted to do was play cricket. You look out the window and hope the sun was shining. So that kind of attitude is very important. It's a nice way to play cricket regardless of you win, lose or draw. Eoin Morgan feels his players will savour the small joys of the game and not lose sleep over the 4-0 defeat in the Test series