Saturday's first one-dayer at Chester-le-Street is one of the more important matches the Indian team will play in recent times. Every cricketer will tell you that each match is as significant as the previous one, but in the context of what has happened thus far on this tour of England, the
opening match of the one-day series is vital from an Indian perspective.
Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong for Dhoni's team. They have lost a clutch of key performers through injuries, and more than 50 days into the tour, they are yet to win a single international game. Yes, this is a fresh start, a different format, there are a host of new faces and they are the World Cup winners.
Saying that, India must get off to a winning start if they are to turn things around.
No negative vibes
To me, India will have to put everything on the line on Saturday. From a morale and confidence perspective, they must win the first encounter because otherwise, even the fresh legs that haven't been a part of the Test series will begin to feel the heat.
One must keep in mind the fact that a majority of the core group of the one-day squad was a part of the Test campaign too, and while I don't want to sound pessimistic, it is inevitable that the negative vibes that will result from another loss will percolate down the ranks.
India's lead-up to the one-day series has been reasonably impressive, notwithstanding the defeat in the Twenty20 international the other night.
England perhaps have the advantage of having different captains for the three formats because, in terms of pushing the team when it is already doing well, they will have the edge. It's when things are not going your way that you need to look around and see who can provide that spark, and that has not happened for the Indians so far.
Rahane gives hope
Therefore, I can't reiterate how vital the first game is. The positive from the Indian perspective is how well Ajinkya Rahane played in his first international game.
Rahane has done well in domestic cricket for a long time, and his instant success augurs well for Indian cricket.