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Into rapid fire mode

For Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s emerging India, moulding themselves quickly into the limited-over format just three days after an intense Test series against Australia poses a challenge in itself, reports Nilankur Das.

cricket Updated: Nov 13, 2008 23:43 IST
Nilankur Das

As the caravan touches the western borders of the country, albeit against changed oppositions and in a more intensified format, adaptation assumes the most significant role for both teams.

For Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s emerging India, moulding themselves quickly into the limited-over format just three days after an intense Test series against Australia poses a challenge in itself. But the mental fatigue, which is eclipsed by a fulfillment after a 2-0 drubbing of the Aussies, is a lifetime achievement for any team.

For visitors England, however, adjusting to the subcontinent conditions for the seven-match ODI series in the Hero Honda Cup will be a test. Enduring the heat will be a major hurdle even before Kevin Pietersen’s men start thinking of dealing with the Indian attack or their fitness worries. Besides, they would desperately try to put at bay their disastrous performances in the Stanford Challenge and their defeat against a second-string Mumbai side in a practice match a couple of days back.

Interestingly, both captains would have to strategise on their feet because of a new Powerplay rule in the series, where the batting side gets to choose one of either the second or the third five-over slot for field restrictions.

For fans, what the highs and lows surrounding the two teams have done is that these have sapped them of much interest. Not many turned out to see the cricketers train on Thursday and even on the eve of the first match of the series the stands were not sold out.

“The stands will be full by tomorrow,” Niranjan Shah, secretary of the Saurashtra Cricket Association, said on Thursday. Of course, it would be: But what is a capacity of 18,500 to a country like India and that too for an ODI?

For India, who can boast of dangerous opening pair in Gautam Gambhir and vice-captain Virender Sehwag, the lack of experience in the middle-order can be a problem. Yuvraj Singh, the only one there with experience other than Dhoni, has been struggling for form and much would depend on the likes of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. Rested Sachin Tendulkar would be sorely missed here.

If India go with three medium-pacers in Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Munaf Patel and two spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Yusuf Pathan --- the latter could be picked ahead of the left-arm Pragyan Ojha because of his ability to hit the ball quite a distance. Virat Kohli, who had a decent stint against Sri Lanka opening in the absence of Sehwag, would have to sit out. A greenish tinge on the wicket might force the Indian think tank to go for this combination in the absence of an injured Ishant Sharma.

England, on the other hand, promptly announced their playing XI after a look at the wicket in the morning itself, lest the greenish hue disappears by Friday morning. They have kept as many as five pace options in their line-up. Stuart Broad, who had a sore knee, has been named along with Steve Harmison and James Anderson and the dangerous Andrew Flintoff and Ravi Bopara come in as all-rounders. The experienced Paul Collingwood, too, can roll his arm over. They have spinning options in the young Samit Patel and Owais Shah.

Rajkot, November 13

As the caravan touches the western borders of the country, albeit against changed oppositions and in a more intensified format, adaptation assumes the most significant role for both teams.

For Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s emerging India, moulding themselves quickly into the limited-over format just three days after an intense Test series against Australia poses a challenge in itself. But the mental fatigue, which is eclipsed by a fulfillment after a 2-0 drubbing of the Aussies, is a lifetime achievement for any team.

For visitors England, however, adjusting to the subcontinent conditions for the seven-match ODI series in the Hero Honda Cup will be a test. Enduring the heat will be a major hurdle even before Kevin Pietersen’s men start thinking of dealing with the Indian attack or their fitness worries. Besides, they would desperately try to put at bay their disastrous performances in the Stanford Challenge and their defeat against a second-string Mumbai side in a practice match a couple of days back.

Interestingly, both captains would have to strategise on their feet because of a new Powerplay rule in the series, where the batting side gets to choose one of either the second or the third five-over slot for field restrictions.

For fans, what the highs and lows surrounding the two teams have done is that these have sapped them of much interest. Not many turned out to see the cricketers train on Thursday and even on the eve of the first match of the series the stands were not sold out.

“The stands will be full by tomorrow,” Niranjan Shah, secretary of the Saurashtra Cricket Association, said on Thursday. Of course, it would be: But what is a capacity of 18,500 to a country like India and that too for an ODI?

For India, who can boast of dangerous opening pair in Gautam Gambhir and vice-captain Virender Sehwag, the lack of experience in the middle-order can be a problem. Yuvraj Singh, the only one there with experience other than Dhoni, has been struggling for form and much would depend on the likes of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. Rested Sachin Tendulkar would be sorely missed here.

If India go with three medium-pacers in Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Munaf Patel and two spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Yusuf Pathan --- the latter could be picked ahead of the left-arm Pragyan Ojha because of his ability to hit the ball quite a distance. Virat Kohli, who had a decent stint against Sri Lanka opening in the absence of Sehwag, would have to sit out. A greenish tinge on the wicket might force the Indian think tank to go for this combination in the absence of an injured Ishant Sharma.

England, on the other hand, promptly announced their playing XI after a look at the wicket in the morning itself, lest the greenish hue disappears by Friday morning. They have kept as many as five pace options in their line-up. Stuart Broad, who had a sore knee, has been named along with Steve Harmison and James Anderson and the dangerous Andrew Flintoff and Ravi Bopara come in as all-rounders. The experienced Paul Collingwood, too, can roll his arm over. They have spinning options in the young Samit Patel and Owais Shah.