New Delhi: The last time England won a bi-lateral ODI series in India was in 1984. Then again, it had been decades since their Test series win here as well only for the record to be shattered by Alastair Cook's side. In the upcoming series, the visitors would be looking to stage an encore in the 50-over format as well.
England have been in ripe form lately and have managed to master the Indian conditions with considerable ease. They reached India early for the Test series and settled in well before the matches began. This time too, the players have been sweating it out (metaphorically) at the Palam Ground here ahead of the 5-match ODI series starting from January 11 (Friday). Though the team was defeated by India 'A' in a practice match, the spirits remain high.
The statistic then that England have only managed to win 13 of their 40 ODI matches played against hosts India will count for very little. This especially with weather conditions also not posing much of a threat for the players. Kevin Pietersen recently tweeted that it was colder in Delhi than it was in London. The Indian summer is what usually bogs down foreign teams but with pleasant weather expected in Rajkot,- venue for the 1st ODI - the team will look to make the most of India's ragged recent record.
The men in blue on the other hand face much more of a challenge even if they are playing in their own backyard. MS Dhoni and his men are up against the World Number 1 side and are coming from a series defeat against arch-rivals Pakistan. In the series between the two sides played in 2011-12, hosts India clobbered England 5-0 to avenge their Test humiliation from before. Of the seven series' between the two countries in India, the hosts have managed to win four times with two ending in a draw. This time though, stakes are even higher.
Virender Sehwag has been left out while several others who have been retained, at least for the first three ODIs, are desperately in need of form. The bowling more effective in comparison but to expect the raw talents like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed to rattle England would be over-estimating them.
Stats by Rajesh Kumar