The Asian Age

In­dia look to wrap it up in Birm­ing­ham



Birm­ing­ham, Sept. 1: An unas­sail­able lead in their pocket, In­dia will look to clinch the one- day se­ries against Eng­land by putting up yet another dom­i­nat­ing dis­play when the two sides square off in the fourth one­dayer here on Tues­day.

The vis­i­tors have a 2- 0 lead in the se­ries after the 133run ( D/ L) win at Cardiff and a six- wicket vic­tory at Not­ting­ham in the sec­ond and third ODIs, re­spec­tively. This was after the first ODI at Bris­tol was aban­doned due to in­ces­sant rain.

At Edg­bas­ton then, the Men in Blue will hope to wrap things up with one match re­main­ing in the se­ries. Their con­fi­dence will stem from the fact that Eng­land have been un­able to chal­lenge them in the two matches played so far. On cur­rent ev­i­dence, in limited- overs cricket, the hosts ap­pear to be a com­pletely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal that takes the field in the Test arena.

Like ev­ery other team they too are build­ing up to the 2015 World Cup in Aus­tralia - New Zealand, but they are be­set with prob­lems. A lot of quarters have crit­i­cised Alas­tair Cook’s bat­ting at the top of the or­der but along with Alex Hales, he has put up two fifty part­ner­ships in two games.

That isn’t the trou­ble though. His cap­taincy has been un­der the scan­ner and while the 3- 1 Test se­ries win helped si­lence his crit­ics, even his clos­est sup­port­ers — read Graeme Swann — do not be­lieve that he should lead his coun­try in the World Cup.

How­ever, that is done and dusted, he will do so, and Eng­land’s prob­lems mount from there. Cook’s cap­taincy is quite unimag­i­na­tive in the sense that he doesn’t feel the need to play two off- spin­ners in the XI. This con­ven­tional think­ing has al­ways been Eng­land’s down­fall in limited- overs cricket, and that is the sum­ma­tion of their prob­lems.

At Not­ting­ham, for ex­am­ple, they should have at­tacked Suresh Raina-Am­bati Rayudu when they were de­ployed by Dhoni within the first 20 overs of the English in­nings. The score read 80- odd for 1 wicket at that junc­ture and any other team would have looked to mur­der the In­dian bowl­ing. Such at­tack­ing in­tent is miss­ing from Eng­land.

It is per­haps the rea­son why they haven’t won any­thing of value in this 50- over for­mat, leave alone a sin­gle ICC trophy.

Their last ma­jor ODI win was in New Zealand in early 2013 which was quickly avenged when the Ki­wis won in Eng­land later that sum­mer. Since then they have beaten West Indies ( ear­lier in 2014) and won one- off matches against Ire­land and Scot­land. They have been drubbed twice by Aus­tralia and beaten by Sri Lanka at home in this in­terim, so much so that their fi­nal ap­pear­ance in the 2013 Cham­pi­ons Trophy looks like a happy aber­ra­tion.

Does this mean In­dia’s up­swing in form in last two ODIs is a mis­cal­cu­la­tion? It could be, since this same team strug­gled a lot in South Africa and New Zealand, wherein con­di­tions were more sim­i­lar to the ones that will be pre­vail­ing in the qua­dren­nial event in 2015.

In­dia’s open­ers found it tough to get starts against more dis­ci­plined bowl­ing at­tacks.

The mid­dle or­der couldn’t take the sub­se­quent pres­sure and only Vi­rat Kohli and Dhoni him­self were among the runs in New Zealand. Here, the for­mer’s poor run- of- form has been shaded by the In­dian suc­cess rid­ing on oth­ers’ shoul­ders.

In­dia’s own World Cup plans have been hit by Ro­hit Sharma’s fin­ger in­jury. This is their last over­seas ODI as­sign­ment be­fore the tris­eries in Aus­tralia later in Jan­uary, a dress re­hearsal for their ti­tle de­fence.

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 ?? — AFP ?? In­dia might be high on con­fi­dence after tak­ing a 2- 0 lead, but Shikhar Dhawan’s form is a cause for con­cern.
— AFP In­dia might be high on con­fi­dence after tak­ing a 2- 0 lead, but Shikhar Dhawan’s form is a cause for con­cern.

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