Published in www.cricketnext.com on 13th October 2011
It is the bizarre nature of current cricketing times that has led to a scenario wherein one season has not yet ended and the next one has begun!
This non-stop, incessant, series of matches of all varieties has led not only to player-fatigue, but also spectator-fatigue, administrator-fatigue and doubtlessly even media-fatigue.
The cash cow that is cricket in India has not yet started complaining loudly but the day may not be far when empty stadia are the norm even for the slam-bang versions of the game, rather than the exception.
Be that as it may, the English ODI side has been here for over a week now, practising for the upcoming 5 match series against hosts India, whereas the Indian team is now being cobbled together from various places, just 2 days before the fist encounter at Hyderabad.
Skipper MS Dhoni would have every justification to feel aggrieved at having to enter another important series without having had anything like adequate rest and recuperation after a gruelling and heart-breaking England tour and an excruciatingly painful Champions League.
So would most of the other players. Only some lucky ones like Praveen Kumar and Ajinkya Rahane have managed to get a genuine break by not having had to play the Champions League.
The fact that a newcomer like Rahane needs a break too is a sign of our times. He would have to play endless ODIs, T-20s and perhaps even Test Matches by the time the IPL is over in May next year.
Notwithstanding such a packed schedule, Team India would feel the urgent need to gear up and take on the Pommies with some fervour on their home turf. The memories of the Test and ODI whitewash at the hands of the old enemy would be very fresh in the minds of the battered and bruised Indians. They would thus have to show some form very early in the series to gain the ascendancy.
India may be the resigning World Champions and euphoric scenes from an early April evening may still be fresh in our minds, but it is a fact that Team India has slipped to number 5 in the ICC rankings after their disastrous showing over the summer.
India’s main strength will again lie in their batting, despite the continued absence of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. The middle order looks firm with the likes of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and captain Dhoni expected to score heavily on batting pitches. Robin Utthappa may get a look in once again at the expense of the less explosive Parthiv Patel at the top of the order, although the return of Gautam Gambhir will mean more competition for slots at the top of the order. Rahane will be looking to cement his place in the side with a strong showing once again and even Manoj Tewari could prosper against the English seamers on Indian wickets.
India’s bowling looks weak even with Praveen at the helm, for Umesh Yadav, Vrun Aaron, Vinay Kumar and S. Arvind are not likely to instil any kind of fear into the minds of the Englishmen. The spin attack of Amit Mishra and R. Ashwin may prove to be more potent.
England will not suffer in comparision as they have attacking players like Kevin Pieterson and Ravi Bopara in their ranks along with the steady duo of Alistair Cook and Ian Bell. Young guns like Craig Kieswetter and Jonathan Bairstow would also be keen to put up a fiery display in the series.
The English bowlers may find the Indian conditions tough to handle but their wily coach, Andy Flower, would no doubt have some tricks up his sleeve to contain the Indian batsmen. Graeme Swann would surely be able to hold his own if some turn is available as is likely.
All in all, the Indians would have to do all the running for they have everything to gain by putting up an impressive performance in this revenge series. The Englishmen would not hand them any easy victories on a platter!