India vs England ODIs: The Five Key Battles Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co. Need to Win
After suffering a 3-1 loss in five Tests, India take on England in a five-match ODI series, starting on Monday in Bristol. The tourists are determined to perform better in the limited-overs format, especially with the World Cup now six months away.
Despite the embarrassing 3-1 loss in the Test series, India have generally been the superior side in the ODI format against England. The two sides have played 87 matches from 1974 to 2013 and India have emerged victorious in 47 of those, losing 35. (I always try to bring positivity in Team India's camp: Suresh Raina)
Two games have ended in ties, while three failed to produce any results. Backed by these numbers, Mahendra Singh Dhoni would want his young outfit to take a stranglehold over England when the ODI series gets underway in Bristol on Monday.
India also have the upper hand in their last six meetings against England, winning four and losing two. The last ODI they played, the Champions Trophy final (reduced to 20-overs-a-side) went India's way after rain played truant for most of the day.
Can India extend their successful run in ODIs against England? For that to happen, India's stars will have to perform and perform consistently. They will have to win some key battles against England's firepower to emerge on top in the ODI series, starting on Monday in Bristol. (India look for new beginnings after Test debacle)
Here are some of the most interesting duels to look forward to:
Virat Kohli vs James Anderson: Virat Kohli's wretched form in India's Test series defeat to England was fuelled by James Anderson and Stuart Broad. While Anderson dismissed the Indian vice-captain four times, Broad snared Kohli twice. That's six times by England's new-ball bowlers, out of 10 times. Kohli finished the series with scores of 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0, 7, 6 and 20 from 10 and his frailties to the ball swinging away outside the off-stump were exposed beyond doubt. (Kohli, Pujara lose touch with technique in England)
Luckily for Kohli (and India), there will be no Broad in the ODIs. Anderson, however, will be more than eager to carry his Test series form into the ODIs and Kohli needs to be wary of that.
Questions were asked about Kohli's abilities to play outside the sub-continent and eyebrows were further raised when one of the most talented batsmen in the world failed to overcome obvious deficiencies throughout a long series. However, the Delhi batsman is a different beast in the ODI format and has the numbers to back himself. With 5634 runs and 19 hundreds in 134 ODIs, Kohli is a proven match-winner and he already sent out dangerous signals to the English camp with a fluent half-century against Middlesex in a warm-up ODI. The one-dayers, starting Monday, will give Kohli the chance to show his real potential; watch out for those drives and pulls. On song, Kohli has the temperament and the ability to make some of the best bowling attacks in the world look ordinary.
Alastair Cook vs MS Dhoni: Two Tests into the series, Alastair Cook was at his wits' end. The unrelenting British press were hounding the home captain over his poor form and England's prolonged losing streak. Nothing seemed to be going right for the left-handed batman, whose runs had dried up since the horror Ashes tour in Australia earlier in the year. (Dhoni a 'serial offender' in India's Test debacles: Ian Chappell)
The tables turned quickly, though and how. While Cook found form, the team rallied around him and delivered three successive wins as England went on to win the series 3-1.
Suddenly, Dhoni's captaincy was under the scanner again. Another overseas Test series, another resounding defeat and critics were baying for Dhoni's blood. However, like the ECB, the BCCI decided to throw their full might behind the captain. A new coaching staff was sent in as reinforcement and the board assured the Indian media and fans, that Dhoni would not be touched. Former cricketers too were unanimous in their views; if the team did not respond, what could the captain do?
To cut a long story, short, the shoe is now on the other foot. Dhoni must do what Cook did, or half of it at least. The Indian captain is in good form and his critics realize there is no alternative to Dhoni as captain.
Kohli, the closest in the running, did his chances no good by performing miserably. It will be a battle of attrition between the two captains. Both men have been criticized for overtly defensive tactics at most times. However, compared to Cook, Dhoni is far more aggressive in limited-overs cricket; the Indian likes playing the odd gamble and mostly, it pays off. Dhoni's success in ODIs, as a captain and leader, has been phenomenal.
The numbers of course, tell their own story - while Dhoni has played 243 matches and amassed 8046 runs, Cook has played a mere 82, scoring 2967 runs. The experience, runs and results are on Dhoni's side. Can he make it count?
Ravichandran Ashwin vs Moeen Ali: Not for a long time, has a spinner has had much say in England, as Moeen Ali. The part-time off spinner was the joint second-highest wicket-taker in the Test series, with 19 scalps. His exploits left India's batsmen at sea and experts lost for words.
The Indian camp of commentators felt the tourists were too complacent against Ali and tried to play against the turn often, gifting him easy wickets at the end. At the same time they wondered why Ravichandran Ashwin, the sole specialist off-spinner from either side was left out in the cold. The English, of course, could not stop talking about Ali and he was hailed as one of the most improved Test cricketers in recent times by the British press.
Come the ODIs, and Ali's true potential could be put to test. India are bound to be more aggressive in the limited-overs games and the likes of Kohli, Suresh Raina and Dhoni will take their chances against Ali.
Ashwin on the other hand, has experience on his side, the experience of bowling in crunch situations. He has 106 wickets from 79 ODIs, while Ali has played just three matches. The contest here does not lie in the numbers, but in the impact these two men have on the game. Dhoni is known to rely on his spinners, no matter what the conditions. That's how he likes to control the game and Ashwin will play a key part. How India play Ali and how Cook uses him, could well play a major role in deciding the series.
Ravindra Jadeja vs James Anderson: Ravindra Jadeja, as a Test all-rounder, has become the butt of all jokes around the world. Overseas, he can't seem to score runs or take wickets. However, when it comes to the ODIs, Jadeja is a different threat and a different challenge, for the opposition.
With 1541 runs from 101 ODIs, the Saurashtrra cricketer has played some useful knocks under pressure for the world champions. He will be keen to score a few brownie points against James Anderson, who had the better of him through the Test series, after the ugly spat at Trent Bridge came to the fore. Jadeja, who invariably walked in to bat earlier than he would have liked throughout the Test series, came up against Anderson's pace and swing in helpful conditions. With the tourists already rocked and shattered, the England pace spearhead ran away with most of the battlesÂ (Anderson dismissed Jadeja three times in 10 innings).
But just because it's a different format, does not mean Anderson will be any less lethal - he has 255 wickets in the format and admittedly, he has been spurred on after the row that threatened to sour relations between two of the most powerfulcricketing nations in the world. Will we get to see a more aggressive Jadeja avenge his side of the humiliation? Time will tell, but this duel will be certainly one of the most watched for in the ODI series.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar vs Alex Hales: For starters, this duel could look totally one-sided. An established new-ball operator against a man who is yet to play an ODI. But Hales, one of the most feared batsmen in T20 cricket is certain to get a game and to open the batting with Cook and will to face the new ball against Kumar, who finished with 19 wickets in the Tests. (Why Alex Hales is England's next-big thing)
Kumar's ability to swing the ball away late and get it to move back in, troubled the English immensely even on a flat deck like the one at Trent Bridge. As the series went on, he began to tire and his swing and movement suffered. There was little shape on the ball and all the sharpness had disappeared. However, with a week's break, Kumar will be ready to fire again and make an immediate impact. Hales may not carry the nerves of an ODI debutant and his aggressive nature will not allow him to hold back against Kumar's swing.
Kumar's guile has so far helped him snare 37 wickets from 35 ODIs, with an economy rate of 4.74. That is rather miserly in today's world of slam-bang cricket. Hales strikes at almost 138 in T20Is and has taken on the best new-ball bowlers in the world with equal aplomb. Having come through the ranks in the English domestic circuit, Hales has also dealt with prodigious swing. Who comes on top between these two, will have a heavy impact on the series as it goes on.