Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Over the last four weeks, the cricket caravan has taken India on quite a journey: Bengaluru-Colombo-Pallekele-Colombo-Mohali-Indore-Rajkot. The latest pit stop is Guwahati in India's northeast, for the first lap of their World Cup campaign, to play England in their first warm-up on Saturday.
England weren't as lucky and spent nearly 38 hours on the road, travelling from London to Guwahati with long layovers in Dubai and Mumbai. While the "chaos" - as put by Jonny Bairstow in an Instagram story - could die down, the travel is unlikely to, they will crisscross India during the tournament and play in eight cities.
England can draw some comfort from the fact that they will stay put in Guwahati for both their warm-up games, unlike India, who will travel down south to Thiruvananthapuram for their second warm-up on October 2 against Netherlands.
England can also draw comfort from the fact that they have had the wood over India in their last two meetings at ICC tournaments. At the T20 World Cup semi-final last year, they handed India a ten-wicket thrashing with Alex Hales and Jos Buttler making merry.
Prior to that, England were the only side to beat India in the league stage of the 2019 ODI World Cup, after which India jettisoned their two-wristspinner strategy. As it turns out, only one of them, Kuldeep Yadav, has made it to this World Cup, but he has done so after two years in the wilderness, after going back to the drawing board, working on his run-up and rhythm, and rediscovering his verve to become one of India's trump cards.
The other significant bit is Ashwin's late entry into the squad on the back of an injury to Axar Patel. Ashwin, a key cog in India's previous ICC triumphs at the 2011 World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy, has made it despite having only played four ODIs - including two last week against Australia, where he registered combined figures of 4 for 88 across 17 overs - over the last six years.
Having forced his way into the squad, Ashwin will fancy his chances of making the first XI, given the team's inclination to field someone who can bat at No. 8. This means Ashwin will tussle with Thakur for that spot, depending on the kind of surfaces and match-ups India are likely to encounter.
England are coming off a series against New Zealand where they overturned a 1-0 deficit to clinch the trophy 3-1, with Ben Stokes making an unreal 182 in the third game. That Stokes is here having un-retired from the format follows lengthy discussions with the backroom staff who were keen that he played in a bid to help England defend their title.
Brook showed glimpses of his domineering best when he made a barnstorming IPL hundred for Sunrisers Hyderabad early in the IPL season but tapered off after his frailties against spin came to the fore. He eventually lost his place in the XI, but for someone so young, the stint was an eye-opener in helping him adapt to the vagaries of subcontinent pitches.
As is the norm in warm-ups, both teams can field all 15 players from the squad. Players returning from injuries or searching for form will be in extra focus. India have ticked most boxes, having played extensively in these conditions. England will want to tick off their own priority items.
Unlike India, who are thin on batting after No. 7, England have no such concerns with a line-up capable of batting until No. 10. All said, how quickly they adapt to spin-friendly conditions will be among the things to watch out for as they aim to emulate West Indies and Australia in defending their World Cup crown.