Can Team India restore some lost pride in shorter formats?
After a humiliating 3-1 defeat in the five-match Test series against England, MS Dhoni & Co. have now shifted their focus towards the shorter versions of the game. India are scheduled to play five ODIs and a lone T20 match in the remaining England sojourn.
It sounds cliche to state that playing in whites and colour clothing are altogether a different ball game. When it comes to the fifty over format, India are the world champions and certainly a competitive unit. If, for a moment, we set aside the ‘illogical’ Test captaincy of Dhoni, he is undoubtedly one of the best skippers of all time in the limited overs format.
But things haven’t really worked in favour of ‘captain cool’ of late. If we see the last two overseas tours of Team India, they did not manage to win a single ODI match out of the six they played. If they lost the three-match ODI series 0-2 against South Africa, then in New Zealand they lost four matches out of the five, as one match ended in a tie.
Steep bounce and extra bit of movement off the track are two major issues with Indian batsmen, which give them sleepless nights while playing outside the sub-continent. The way Indian team surrendered in the recently concluded Test series against England epitomizes that fact. Their batsmen looked mentally exhausted and hapless against the English seamers, especially – James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
However, before the ODI series starts, India can take heart from the fact that last year in June, they lifted the ICC Champions Trophy, which took place England, that too, after beating the hosts in the final. Along with that, players like Suresh Raina, Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Sanju Samson have joined the squad for the ODIs and T20, which might serve as a boost to Indian camp. Another positive for the tourists would be their skipper’s fine form. Dhoni scored four half-centuries in the recently concluded Test series.
The BCCI looked furious after the shameful Test series defeat and reacted sternly after the fifth and final Test at The Oval. The Indian cricket board straight away appointed former Indian skipper Ravi Shastri as the Director of the Indian cricket team for the remainder of their tour, clipping the powers of head coach Duncan Fletcher. The Board has also sent the bowling and fielding coaches, Joe Dawes and Trevory Penney, on a break and replaced them with Sanjay Bangar, R Sridhar and Bharat Arun. These actions must have given a loud and clear signal to the Indian players that it’s high time they perform and focus on their overseas performances.
The biggest disappointment of the Test series came from mainstay of Indian batting line-up in all formats of the game, Virat Kohli. The vice-captain of the team would certainly look to play some fine knocks in the remaining series before the long tour comes to an end. Other players like Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan, Mohammed Shami and Ajinkya Rahane too have got a good chance to compensate for their miserable performances in the Test series by contributing in the ODIs.
But as the adage goes it’s easier said than done, the ODI series would be a hard nut to crack for the Men in Blue. Especially, against the hosts, who have the momentum on their side, which they would love to carry forward in the rest of the series. The only setback for the home team is absence of speedster Stuart Broad, who is out of the ODI series due to a knee injury. However, that isn’t going to hurt the England side much, as they have a handful of bowing options in the form of Steven Finn and Ben Strokes, to fill the void.
Nevertheless, it’s certainly going to be an interesting ODI series, as the tourists will try to take the revenge for the humiliating Test series defeat, whereas, on the other hand, Alastair Cook-led side would like to carry on with their newly found form. Whatever be the outcome, one thing is sure that the resurgent England will start the five-match ODI series as clear favorites.
For Indian players, it’s a good opportunity to prepare themselves for the upcoming ICC World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in mid April next year in Australia and New Zealand, where conditions would be quite similar.