With less than an hour to go now, India take on Leicestershire in a T20 game at Grace Road. Leicestershire are champions of the Friends Life T20 tournament, the English equivalent of the IPL, if you will, which concluded only last week. One hopes that Leicestershire have had time enough to clear their heads after what deservedly must have been a big celebration.
India have brought in reinforcements to replace half a dozen big names - Zaheer, Sehwag, Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Ishant and the latest addition to the list, Gambhir. The last two practice games against Kent and Sussex have been won by the touring side, with notable performances notched up by Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Parthiv Patel and R P Singh. Well, does this indicate that India are better prepared for the limited overs games ahead? The side certainly looks fitter, and is probably hungrier too. The other advantage being that the morale of the new arrivals may be better preserved than team-mates who were at the receiving end of the test series humiliation.
The game today against the English T20 champs will certainly be a good test. Conditions are now wetter and colder than in the past few weeks. The official end to the English summer cricket season is a week away, but six internationals are yet to be played between India and England.
Notably, the games against Kent and Sussex did not feature any of the quicks who will figure in the England T20 and ODI sides. In addition to the test quartet of speed and spin, the tall and quick Dernbach and Finn are itching to get a crack. Dernbach bowls a well diguised slower ball dropping nearly 15mph, and Finn when bowling right areas, is a handful in any format. So does the Indian batting line up get a breather?
Expect the speed and steep bounce to continue the torrid examination of the new look Indian line up. You will see Patel, Kohli and Raina being bounced and tucked up. The only young batsman who may have the time to adjust could be Rohit Sharma. But his predominant onside play may well be tested by the swinging ball in the heavy conditions. The only relief the Indian batting can expect will be the use of the white Kookaburra ball, instead of the Duke cherry used in the test series. Hopefully the swing will be less menacing and reverse swing not as pronounced given the softer ground conditions.
It will be a better contest than the test matches, but rest assured England continue to hold the upper hand, India's world champion status notwithstanding.
There is little to say about or to expect from the Indian bowling attack. One can hope for a few performances, given occassional scoreboard pressure, but it remains very mediocre in the context and the form of the England batting line up.
Cook could consolidate his position as the England ODI skipper, after a good first outing in the role against the Sri Lankans, and move one step closer to test captaincy.
The other highlight of the series could be role that Rahul Dravid plays in this his last ODI series. The Wall looked miles ahead of his team-mates in dealing with the English attack in the test match leg of this tour. He will just have to continue to play anchor again through the ODIs now.
Here's hoping for a contest! A real one this time, please!
Monday, 29 August 2011
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