It's now or never for Indians

It's now or never for Indians

Dhoni's men take on England in crucial final league match today

It's now or never for Indians

No need to pull out your calculators to arrive at possible permutations and no need to worry about the bonus point.

The task for both India and England is a straightforward one -- win the match on Friday and progress to have a shot at the tri-series title against Australia on Sunday.     

While the job at hand for both teams competing in the last league match is straightforward, it’s not a simple one.

Given their performances in their last two matches, England can be termed favourites for Friday’s game but form-book in the shorter version is often superfluous. Especially in a short tournament like this where one bad phase and the vagaries of weather can have an impact on the result.

India have been both victims and beneficiaries of these occurrences. In Brisbane, one poor passage of play while batting saw them plummet to 67/5 from 57/1.

India could never recover enough to challenge England from that slump. In Sydney, however, they were a touch fortunate when only 16 overs of play was possible due to persistent showers.

India were 69 for two at that stage and the match officials needed to squeeze in a minimum of 24 more overs to constitute an ODI. The washout gave India two points that rendered their last match against England a virtual semifinal.

Australia have been unbeaten this summer while India are yet to pick up their maiden win on this tour. But if MS Dhoni and company manage to string together two successive wins in the next four days, they would be tri-series champions for only the second time in the tournament’s long history.

While the scenario isn’t as simple as it may appear, it’s not a task that’s beyond India’s reach. To begin with though, they have to get the better of Englishmen.

England may think they have the psychological advantage over India, having tamed them on the bouncy Gabba. With Perth not too dissimilar in its nature, England would fancy their pacers to unnerve an already unsettled Indian batting group.

For the third successive game Rohit Sharma, who went through a fitness test here on Thursday, has been ruled out even as he seeks to recover from his hamstring injury while Shikhar Dhawan is fighting a crisis in confidence.

With the World Cup approaching fast India obviously don’t want to risk Rohit and that has forced them to persist with an out-of-form Dhawan whose problems are as much about technical flaws as they are about his state of mind.

But it’s not just about lack of good starts, India haven’t been able to sustain partnerships in the middle. Virat Kohli coming in at No 4 to provide some cushion to the brittle middle-order hasn’t also gone as per plans.

“It’s (top-order wobble) something that will always play on the back of your mind but it is not really a big concern,” Dhoni stressed.

“More than the top order, in the middle order we have lost too many wickets and that thing really hampers the plan because even if you don’t get off to a good start, you have a good partnership and then you don’t want wickets to fall in pairs. And that is what is happening to us and if we can avoid that then everything will be good.”

The washout against Australia has made India’s job less complicated when it comes to picking the bowlers. Given that Perth has not much to offer for spinners, India may leave out Axar Patel and include a seamer in either Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Umesh Yadav along with Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami.

Ravindra Jadeja could be the lone spinner while Stuart Binny will be expected to bowl much of fifth bowler’s quota of overs. Binny can also be entrusted to open the innings just to buy some time for Dhawan who at this point in time can’t as much buy a run.

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