After a sequence of disappointing results this season, India finally emerged victorious. The way the host started and finished the five-match contest did not matter much to its fans following its hat-trick of wins to lock the series.
Though India made it with the narrowest of margins, it proved enough to bring back the World No. 1 spot in ODI rankings. Indeed, an unexpected bonus!
Some sheen will be off India’s success if one remembers that the England selectors chose to rest Jonathan Trott, James Anderson and Graeme Swann for the ODI series. But England, under a confident Alastair Cook, was aiming to strike at the vulnerable-looking Indians, softened by the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Pakistan.
For England, without some of its best players, it was going to be difficult to reverse the trend suggested by the fact that it had won just one out of the last 18 ODIs played in India. As a result, winning two out of five matches was itself a huge gain for England.
Regardless of the triumph boosting the confidence of the young Indian bowlers, areas of concern remain. Most leading batsmen struggled for form and the attack lacked sting. No doubt, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar impressed one and all with his disciplined, swing bowling but the cupboard looks bare with many pacemen, who played for the country in the last couple of seasons, yet to come back from injuries. Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Praveen Kumar, R.P. Singh, Munaf Patrel, R. Vinay Kumar, S. Sreesanth, Varun Aaron, Irfan Pathan… the list seems endless.
A look at the recent gains for India brings into focus the emergence of Suresh Raina as a mature performer in the middle of the innings.
Also encouraging is the determination with which Ravindra Jadeja is evolving as an all-rounder, in keeping with Dhoni’s expectations.
With India not expected to play ODIs in the near future, its preparations for the Champions Trophy, to be hosted by England in June, will be in the form of playing in the Indian Premier League.
Surely not an ideal way to approach a premier event considering the way other teams, particularly, England and Australia, are busy in search of a champion combination, with their focus firmly on the 2015 World Cup.
Ask Dhoni about how he looks ahead to the World Cup and he says, “You will have to wait and watch, 2015 is a long way off — two and a half years away. What we need to see is what kind of a combination we should have because the World Cup is in Australia (and New Zealand). The whole pool that is playing domestic cricket is the set we are looking at. Some of them right now are playing international cricket.
“Some others have injuries, they are recovering. By the end of this year or the start of next year, you will have a pool of players who would have played sufficient number of international matches.”
Indeed, it is too early to look at the World Cup but the time has come for the Board to closely monitor the growing number of players on the injury-list. Injuries are an integral part of a fast bowler’s life but it is indeed baffling how most of them recover well in time for the annual extravaganza called IPL.
With the four-Test home series against Australia coming up next month, India’s attack, both pace and spin, looks woefully inadequate, more so after it stood exposed before a well-prepared England in the Test series. India’s failing against off-spinners was exposed by Graeme Swann in the Test series but his replacement, James Tredwell, teased the Indians and Yuvraj Singh repeatedly falling to Tredwell proved the Indian vulnerability against off-spin.
Does India look ready for the Australian challenge? With the cricketers keen to rest, as indicated by Dhoni, ahead of the Test series, the state of preparedness of Team India is anybody’s guess.