Hyderabad: The venue may have changed but the hunger to win has not as India face England, this time in their own backyard, on Friday.
India v England, October 14, Hyderabad
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)
India's winless tour of England has not been without what initially seemed like positives. At least the admen had moved on from the Lagaan theme that has been the easiest way to sell an India-England series in India. Except that colonial references have now made way for war ones. "There's no weapon deadlier than vengeance," says one in all caps. "India takes on England. The war resumes this October."
To give the marketing machinery generous benefit of doubt, India and England haven't exactly offered them much by the way of close series. India last beat England in England in September 2007. The corresponding date for England in India is April 2006. India have whitewashed only two Test series (longer than two matches); one of those victims was England. Four out of their seven whitewashes (in series longer than two matches) have been handed by England; the last one earlier this year now invokes the deadly weapon of vengeance.
Except that this is no revenge series. For one of your three worst tours of all time, including the 4-0 Test whitewash for the then No. 1 side, is not avenged over five ODIs. It will, however, be an opportunity to know what a win feels like. India last enjoyed that feeling in June in the West Indies. It will be an opportunity to arrest a slide, stack up some victories and regain confidence before they leave for Australia, their next really big assignment. It won't be easy, though, playing as they are without Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel. Given their schedules, though, they better get used to this, at least in limited-overs formats.
It will be an opportunity for their opponents to set a record right. That they have won only one of their last 13 completed ODIs against India in India is enough to justify England's remarkably early arrival and long preparation. Most of those defeats suggest the lack of the power game required in the subcontinent, which along with Test series wins in India and Sri Lanka stands in England's way of their aim of all-round domination.
England can't quite claim to know the grammar of subcontinent ODIs well. They entertained in the World Cup, but their batsmen tried to win it through cute dabs and paddles. When England were sleepwalking through a 5-0 ODI series defeat in 2008-09, David Lloyd told the story through the way the respective sides' batsmen prepared to face a delivery. The Indians, he observed, had higher back lifts, ready to impart power into the shots and also trusting the pitches, looking to play down the ground. The England batsmen didn't lift those bats as high in preparation, they often pre-meditated, the crookedness of the face either way to run the ball behind square for a single, at times two, stood out.
England, though, are in a much better mental state than their two previous trips to India. In 2008-09 the captain and the coach weren't quite moving in the same direction; in the World Cup they were tired, injured and possibly longing for home. They will also gain from an Indian XI weakened by injuries. Still a major part of responsibility to prevent this from being yet another one-sided India-England series lies with their batsmen - crucially missing Eoin Morgan - and their response to the conditions.
(completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for:
Craig Kieswetter comes with the promise of the power game required in India. He also comes with the confidence of having done well against India in the English summer, and then in the Champions League T20. England will want positive starts from him.
Gautam Gambhir will make a comeback not only to the side but also to the opening role, which he had to relinquish during the World Cup. This is the start of a defining season for him, a season he will want to get through without fitness-related layoffs, a season he will want to end with runs in Australia. Form doesn't really apply after the various breaks, but for what it is worth Gambhir has reached double figures in 17 of his last 18 innings, averaging 58 with two centuries and six fifties.
Despite Gambhir's comeback, both Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane are likely to be rewarded for their good work in England. As is the case with Ravindra Jadeja. The bowling, if it was possible, looks even weaker than it did in England. They will be forced to try Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav at some point in the series.
India (likely) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Parthiv Patel, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 R Ashwin, 10, 11 two out of Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Vinay Kumar
Jonny Bairstow and Ravi Bopara have made strong middle-order statements for England, which leaves a close competition. There is a case for including all five of Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Bopara and Bairstow. There is an equally strong case for playing Samit Patel at 7, as the second-spinner-allrounder.
England (likely) 1 Alastair Cook (capt.), 2 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ravi Bopara, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Samit Patel, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Jade Dernbach, 11 Steven Finn
(Related: Team profiles)
Pitch and conditions
The scores in the two practice games have ranged between 114 and 367, but don't expect any favours for the bowlers, unless the pitch just turns out to be really slow. An expected high of 31 degree celsius and 61% humidity should test batsmen on the new no-runner rule. If the forecast of "scattered thunderstorms" doesn't come to fruition, that is.