FIFA World Cup set to overshadow first India vs England T20 bout

Quality of cricket ensures enough takers for India’s first T20 against hosts despite clashing with England’s FIFA World Cup pre-quarterfinal against Colombia.

cricket Updated: Jul 02, 2018 16:42 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Manchester
FIFA World Cup,India vs England,England vs India
The Indian cricket team will take on England in the first of three Twenty20 Internationals at Old Trafford on Tuesday.(BCCI/Twitter)

The FIFA World Cup has reduced everything to a side show in this part of the world. With the home of Manchester United just a stone’s throw away from the Old Trafford Cricket Ground, it goes without saying that football fever has hit this town. Everything is expected to come to a standstill on Tuesday evening when the Harry Kane-led side takes on Colombia.

The cricket organisers are not complaining though. It’s a testament to the quality of England and India’s teams that they even though the opening Twenty20 International is clashing with England’s pre-quarterfinal, there are enough takers for cricket as well. “The game versus Australia here was sold out last week, but this is going to be bigger,” said a Lancashire Cricket official when asked about the demand for the tickets.

READ | Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting inducted into ICC Cricket Hall of Fame

If it was any other time, the upcoming limited overs contests would have been the flavour of the English summer. When you have such prizefighters as Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Suresh Raina pitted against Jonny Bairstow, Jos Butter, Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy and Alex Hales, it makes for compulsive watching.

On current strength and form, Eoin Morgan and Virat Kohli’s teams are the two best outfits in world cricket. Man for man they are evenly matched. Both teams have depth, are balanced and more importantly their key players are on top of their games.

With England’s comprehensive thumping of Australia still fresh in memory, everyone here seems to be raving about how strong the home team is. They are also gung-ho about the advantage of home conditions, given India’s suspect record here. The local experts will however do well to take a walk down recent memory lane when India notched up emphatic series wins in South Africa.

WELL WARMED-UP

The tourists have warmed up nicely with dominating displays in Ireland. They were clinical with bat and ball in the two T20Is, completing their biggest ever T20 victory — by 143 runs — in the second game. While the top-order was among runs, with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Suresh Raina excelling, it’s the form of the two wrist spinners — chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal — that could get the England thinktank busy.

READ | South Africa captain Faf Du Plessis calls for tougher ball tampering punishments

Ireland could muster only 132 for nine in the first ODI, with the spin twins scything through their batting with a combined haul of seven scalps. The duo then again ripped through the Ireland line-up in the second game, sharing six wickets as the hosts were bowled out for a meager 70 in just 12.3 overs.

KEY BATTLE

All eyes will be on England batsmen’s battle against spin. It is a litmus test to determine whether they will be heading to the 2019 World Cup at home as favourites or with doubts in mind. The injury to Jasprit Bumrah has upset the balance of the Indian bowling attack. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav can be incisive with the new ball and Hardik Pandya is proving effective with his variations but Bumrah provides the X-factor. He is the complete package, with the ability to deliver at any stage of the game. In his absence, Siddarth Kaul comes into the reckoning if Kohli seeks an extra pace option.

SPOILT FOR CHOICES

There are some serious selection dilemmas for Kohli, but none bigger than accommodating KL Rahul. The kind of form he displayed in the Indian Premier League and in the second T20I against Ireland, the captain’s issue is how to keep him out. Southpaw Suresh Raina has not done badly either. England have an equally formidable batting unit revolving around Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler, so much so that Test captain Joe Root is struggling to keep his place.

READ | World Cup a year away, MS Dhoni readies for Jos Buttler battle

There’s little context to the first three games in England. The T20Is are viewed as an opportunity to fill the coffers of the home board while to India they serve as warm-up for the ODI series that follows. But there will be no dearth of eye-balls, thanks to the exciting format and the class on display.

Squads

India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Hardik Pandya, Siddarth Kaul, Umesh Yadav.

England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, David Willey, Dawid Malan.

First Published: Jul 02, 2018 16:22 IST