India begins new era begins under Kohli
Pune, 15 January 2017: Following a successful start to his Test reign, Virat Kohli would be looking to celebrate his appointment as the sole commander of the Indian cricket team on a similarly glorious note when they take on a dangerous-looking England in the first of the three-match one-day international series here at the MCA Stadium on Sunday.
Unlike his Test sojourn which has been exceptional so far — 14 wins in 22 matches — Kohli can expect a much tougher challenge in the shorter format with England having made good strides since their 2015 World Cup debacle and India not being the same force that they are in whites.
At the beginning of last year, India lost 1-4 to Australia away, defeated Zimbabwe 3-0 at Harare in June before edging out New Zealand 3-2 at home in October. And in most of the 13 ODIs, the one problem that stood out was the younger crop struggling to finish off matches consistently as Dhoni endured a rare lean patch. The likes Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya shone in a couple of matches but struggled to deliver consistently, taking their time to settle into international cricket.
That was one of the thoughts behind bringing back veteran Yuvraj Singh as the team management looks to zero-in on a squad for the Champions Trophy. Although the prestigious event is to be played only in June, thanks to India’s emphasis on Test cricket, this will be only ODI series they will play before they step in England for their title defence.
Quite a few issues will have to be addressed in the limited chances they’ve got at their hands. With first choice opener Rohit Sharma out injured, it remains to be seen which two among the three openers — Shikhar Dhawan, K L Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane — the team management decides to start with.
Skipper Virat Kohli, who has cemented the No 3 slot with one sensational performance after another, will walk in at that slot but the positions after that is what everyone is waiting to see. Dhoni, having played the role of a finisher selflessly for the predominant part of his career, has said he would like to bat at No 4 as that gives him more time to build an innings. But with Yuvraj Singh back to shore up the middle-order, Dhoni could find himself back at No 5.
India will also have to sort out their bowling combinations. Considering they are playing at home, they may end up playing two frontline spinners with either Amit Mishra or Ravindra Jadeja set to pair up with ace Ravichandran Ashwin. The accurate Jasprit Bumrah emerges as the automatic pick amongst pacers with either Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav being the other choice.
While the top-order and bowling combinations are not much of a concern, it’s the middle order that appears as a headache and Kohli would be hoping Dhoni and Yuvraj recreate the magic of old and the newcomers shine around them.
England, despite the Test battering last year and having lost their last four ODI series here, will be looking forward for this series with great excitement.
They’ve turned the corner since a group stage exit in the 2015 World Cup, winning back many of the fans with an explosive form of cricket.
In Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes, they’ve got plenty of big hitters and with Joe Root and skipper Eoin Morgan set to lend experience, they could push India really hard. They so nearly won the World T20 last year and they would be itching to make another statement.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, K L Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, M S Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav.
England: Eoin Morgan (capt), Jason Roy, Joe Root, Alex Hales, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, David Willey, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Liam Dawson.
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