Faltering India eye revival

Bowling a concern for the hosts while England look to inflict another wound

Faltering India eye revival

From the biting cold of Delhi to the dry hot weather of Rajkot to the extreme humid conditions of Kochi, there has been a constant shift in weather patterns. India’s fortunes, though, have so far remained unchanged, by and large.

On another day, India’s reply of 315/9 in pursuit of 325 in the first one-dayer in Rajkot would have been hailed as a brave effort. Phrases like ‘cricket is the winner’ would have been generously doled out. But India’s losing streak across all formats since the second Test against England in Mumbai has been so long that even the narrow nine-run loss on Friday hardly drew any sympathies for the hosts.

There, however, will be no lack of support for the Indians at the Nehru International Stadium when they seek to draw level in the second ODI here on Tuesday. Kerala may not figure high in the pantheons of Indian domestic cricket, but when it comes to passion for the game few can rival the Southern state. An inclement weather had denied the fans of international action when Australia came here for the first of the three one-dayers in 2010, but this time there seems to be no such threat. The 50,000-capacity crowd is certainly going to spice up the already hot conditions.

Even as India look to arrest their free slide against England, the confidence the visitors carry is unmistakable. While there’s a hint of uneasiness among Indians, exemplified by Gautam Gambhir during Monday’s pre-match press-do, the Englishmen sport a certain calmness as was evident in Alastair Cook’s yogic approach. Come to think of it, these two opening left-handers typify the state of minds their respective sides are in; one edgy and angry and the other composed and content.

Who will come away smiling at the end of Tuesday’s proceedings remains to be seen, but England aren’t going to make it any easier for the home side on what is predicted to be another belter of a surface. The one comforting factor for the bowlers from either side though is the heavy nature of the outfield. There will be runs for sure but it won’t be another Rajkot. Having said that, Indian bowlers need to understand that in the absence of any help either in the shape of swing and seam or turn, they will be better of sticking to basics what with the margin for error being very little on these tracks.

Ishant Sharma had a forgettable outing in Rajkot but to be fair to the Delhi paceman, he was impressive during the Pakistan one-dayers and hence the axe may fall on Ashok Dinda who may be replaced by his Bengal mate Shami Ahmed. With the new rules in force, it’s unlikely that MS Dhoni will keep Ravindra Jadeja out though the all-rounder’s consistency is rivalled only by India’s win percentage in the recent past.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s inclusion too seems a distant possibility unless Dhoni wants to gamble with Suresh Raina the bowler. In that case, Jadeja can be left out to hand a debut to his Saurashtra team-mate to further bolster the batting.

Indian batting, despite falling short of the target in the opening match, gave a good account of itself after a long time. A good start by the openers was capitalised by the middle-order batsmen but it was not good enough to take the team past the line. None of the four batsmen – Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina – could go on to convert their start, and that proved decisive in the end.

The silver lining in the defeat for India was that so long as Dhoni was there in the middle, when the hosts still needed more than 10 runs an over, they looked like making a match of it. But as they say, winning is a habit and India, at the moment, appear to have forgotten that.


Teams (from):

INDIA: MS Dhoni (capt, wk), Ajinkya Rahane, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shami Ahmed, Ashok Dinda, Amit Mishra.

ENGLAND: Alastair Cook (capt), Ian Bell, Joe Root, Kevin Pietersen, Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan, Craig Kieswetter, Samit Patel, Chris Woakes, J Tredwell, T Bresnan, Stuart Meaker, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Danny Briggs.

Umpires: Steve Davis (Australia) and Vineet Kulkarni; Third umpire: Sudhir Asnani; Match referee: Andy Pycroft (Zimbabwe).

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