The One-day series starts today and a lot of us will be eager to see how things unfold in the five games. India had a week off after the Test series, and although they did play a warm-up against Middlesex, it is enough time to re-group, clear their heads and start afresh in a format in which they have been a lot more competitive in overseas conditions in the recent past. As there has been a major shake-up in the support staff, it will be important to see how the players react to this change. It is very rare in modern-day sport for changes to happen in the middle of a series. But with pressure mounting on the squad following repeated overseas failures, something had to be done and cricket fans will be keen to see what happens next. History shows India have played well after such shake-ups, and the fresh start in the tour game, although against a half-strength Middlesex, was not bad.
There have been a lot of new additions to the side in the form of Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Sanju Samson and Karn Sharma and hopefully they will bring a breath of fresh air to the dressing room, which is very important to India at the moment. Heavy defeats are always tough away from home and when the tour has to continue mostly with the same personnel, the biggest challenge will be to get them up and going. So, other then the work on the field, these new faces will have to find a way to get the confidence back in the unit.
India are a good One-day team, although results in South Africa and New Zealand were very ordinary. The most critical part of their game will be the top order and the pace department. The likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma missed out at Lord’s and it’s an absolute must they get going soon. It is end of August in the UK but it has been a very chilly, a bit different from the past, and there will be considerable seam movement with the two white balls. So it’s very important they don’t expose Virat Kohli and Raina very early in these conditions. Their game plan will be the key and it’s important they play a restrictive game at the top. Having wickets in hand will be vital in these conditions and even if it is a slow start, the two new balls and field restrictions will allow the lower order to accelerate later.
India’s another worry in One-day cricket in the last one year has been the number of times the opposition has got past 300. When a team does that in these conditions they more often win than lose and it’s critical India improve in that area. Yes, they won the Champions Trophy last year here but all of us were surprised with the turn the pitches offered then. But I presume it will be a different ball game now. The English think-tank saw what results they got on green pitches and I am sure they will prepare pitches that help seam bowling. Their attack is also heavily pace-oriented. I will be keen to see Steven Finn bowl in these conditions, and if he gets it right, he will be a handy customer. England bat deep with the likes of Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes in the squad, and that is very important in ODIs. This will also allow them to play an extra batsman as both are good bowlers and were successful in the Test series as well. England will be good in these conditions and India will be challenged by them.
The writer is a former India skipper