Chester-le-Street: Battered and bruised in what continues to be an abysmal tour, a demoralised India go into the five-match ODI series against England with batting collapses and toothless bowling repeatedly haunting them.
Coming into the series as world’s No 1 Test team and ODI world champions, India have had a nightmarish English summer with the visitors tasting victory only in the three practice matches ahead of the limited-overs rubber.
After the whitewash in the Tests, India lost the lone Twenty20 game by six wickets in Manchester on Wednesday and things don’t look too bright ahead of the ODIs, the first of which will be played here on Saturday. Looking at England’s ruthless form and India’s misery, it would prove to be a Herculean task for MS Dhoni and his men to get the better of the home team.
England are now the No 1 side in Tests and reigning Twenty20 world champions, and it is only logical to believe that they would now aim for pole position in the ODI charts as well. A 5-0 sweep would take them to No 3 in the ICC’s ODI rankings table behind Australia and Sri Lanka. No 3 India would, in that case, slip to fifth position.
Moreover, the upcoming series would also give England the opportunity to avenge their 1-5 and 0-5 drubbing at the hands of India on two previous visits to the sub-continent. Also, it would put Alastair Cook’s men in the right frame of mind for their return visit to India next month for another five-match series.
The Indians have been plagued by injuries ever since they set foot on English soil. Dhoni & Co will be without Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh in the ODI series. While Zaheer’s tour ended before it started, Yuvraj, Sehwag and Harbhajan followed suit with Gambhir being the latest casualty. But in spite of these injuries, the Indians still have a formidable batting line-up.
While Sachin Tendulkar would be eagerly waiting to reach his much-anticipated 100th international century, Rahul Dravid would want to leave his mark in the last ODI series of his career. But the series would be a test of character for Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Ajinkya Rahane.
However, the main concern for Dhoni would be his toothless bowling attack. Except for Praveen Kumar, who can pose a few challenges, and Munaf Patel, who is skillful at the death, the rest of the attack looks ordinary. Besides, the absence of a genuine fifth bowler is a huge worry for India.