Cardiff: Rocked by one controversy after another, India will be hoping that the spotlight shifts to the cricketing action as they take on an upbeat England side in the second one day international of the five-match series here on Wednesday.
With the first match in Bristol being washed out without a ball being bowled, India will be itching to perform in a format where Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men have shown their prowess over the years. Some on-field action will also mean that skipper Dhoni will be able to focus on cricket, after his comments supporting chief coach Duncan Fletcher did not got down well with the BCCI bigwigs. A notable thing during this tour has been Dhoni expressing his firm point-of-views quite explicitly. It happened in the Ravindra Jadeja-James Anderson case during the Test series and then after the loss when he hinted that perhaps he had done enough as the Indian Test skipper.
Now this is the third instance, where he suddenly finds that he is not on the same page with the board. With simmering tension, all parties though will be hoping for clear weather in Cardiff then as some cricket will do well to cool down tempers. In terms of on-field action there wasn`t much to take away from Bristol, except the pre-match practice on Sunday. For Indian batsmen, this meant big shots sailing out of the park at every opportunity possible. Almost every batsman concentrated on hitting out in a bid to get away from the Test mindset. Dhoni himself led the way, with Rohit Sharma and Stuart Binny also using their long handles well. Suresh Raina too had a little hitting-out session towards the end.
While their hits cleared the nets and the ground-limits with ease, it was a pity that they didn`t get to test the ground`s small boundaries on Monday. Even so, it wasn`t easy to identify which players could be the ones in the Indian playing eleven. Usually they practice as per the intended batting order, but this wasn`t the case.
There was no particular order observable and it almost seemed that they wanted to confuse those watching. Dhoni had not given any hints in his pre-match press conference either, but he did mention that Rohit Sharma had done a decent enough job as opener. It bodes well for the Mumbai batsman who did open the innings with Shikhar Dhawan in the practice game versus Middlesex, and looks set to do so in the near-future as well. While Rohit spent a lot of time in the nets on Sunday, Dhawan had a long chat with Shastri before he went to bat. The man-in-charge (as per the BCCI) was also seen having a conversation with Virat Kohli, imparting knowledge or indeed opinion of the latter`s poor run. The other boss, Fletcher, concentrated on watching his wards keenly as always before taking Dhawan, Raina and Ajinkya Rahane aside for slip-catching practice.
Slip practice has been indicative of team selection in the past but this wasn`t any pointer to their intentions as Ambati Rayudu had a hit in the nets much before Raina did. He also bowled quite a bit to Dhoni and other batsmen as part of their practice against spin. It is to be remembered that Rayudu did bowl in New Zealand and later in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh as well. Unless rain relents in Cardiff, this mystery of who will play at number five or six for India will not be solved.
There is one surety though. Sanju Samson will not be making his debut anytime soon unless Dhoni sits out due to some unforeseen circumstances. In the Bristol nets, he loitered around as the whole team practised, only having a nets after everyone was done.
In comparison, Karn Sharma looked far busier, doing his bit with both bat and ball. While Jadeja and R Ashwin are obvious picks for Dhoni, it will not be surprising if Karn does come into contention at some point, thanks to his leg-spin. One youngster, who was drafted into the ODI squad for his country`s preparations for the 2015 ODI World Cup, who was sure to play in Bristol and will be so in Cardiff too, is Alex Hales. While his counterpart was evasive as ever about the first-choice eleven, England skipper Alastair Cook was quite happy to admit that Hales indeed will be partnering him at the top of the order. It does mean that Ian Bell will move one spot down to number three. Will that be a straight replacement for the dropped Ravi Bopara in their line-up remains to be seen, as and when the series does get underway, weather permitting.
India (from): MS Dhoni (c & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Karn Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Dhawal Kulkarni, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
England (from): Alastair Cook (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.