For once, on this tour, England appears desperate. Not withstanding a sound start at Rajkot, England’s batting in the last two matches came a cropper. With India looking to seal the five-match series, with a hat-trick of triumphs, England faces a must-win situation on Wednesday.
From India’s perspective, the team is on the threshold ending the run of losses at home this season. After two easy victories, by setting and chasing targets, the Indian team is obviously high on confidence. In fact, winning three out of the four ODIs in the past fortnight has injected the Indian team with the much needed self-belief.
At present, the opposite is true for this England side. On a high after a narrow victory in a high-scoring opener of the one-day series, England hit a low with two thumping defeats following two scores under 160. After all, when a team scores in excess of 300 in one match and then aggregates less than half of that twice in succession, the top-order has to take responsibility for the results. So England expects Alistair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan and Craig Kieswetter – the men who set the tone at Rajkot – to come good and the bowlers to come hard at the Indians in the cooler environs of this city.
Of the lot, Pietersen is due a big game-changing knock. He tossed away good starts at Rajkot and Kochi before being erroneously given out at Ranchi. If Pietersen decides to stay longer instead of rushing with
his stroke-play as seen so far in the series, it could well be England’s day.
Much was also expected from Kieswetter since England has invested time on this wicketkeeper-batsman. Chances of Jos Buttler coming in for Kieswetter cannot be ruled out on Thursday. Similarly, England can consider replacing Jade Dernbach with Stuart Meaker.
Given the inconsistency of the Indian bowlers, the England batting can hope to come good again but the visiting team’s bowling quality looks grossly below par.
The decision to rest James Anderson for the ODI series and snowfall keeping Stuart Broad at home has not helped England’s cause. One wonders how the Indians batsmen would have coped with Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar in the ODIs, especially after the impressions these spinners left on the Test series last year. The Indian team, which played to expectations at Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s hometown last week, would like to continue the form in Yuvraj Singh’s first home-game since his return to the National squad.
Dhoni would like to go in with an unchanged squad. It will also be interesting to see how Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed bowl in friendly conditions.
The pitch, re-laid after the 2011 World Cup semifinals between India and Pakistan, is the same what hosted two decisive Ranji Trophy matches this season. The hardness of the pitch, with a touch of grass, has traditionally assisted the pace bowlers. With good ‘carry’ in seam friendly conditions, this venue should make the English fast bowlers feel more at home.
With the English camp increasingly unsure of the fifth match taking place at Dharamshala in the present conditions – with fresh snowfall holding up the road traffic and the chartered plane carrying the teams
being too small to accommodate all concerned – the visiting team can be expected to give it all.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Bhuveshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shami Ahmed, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Amit Mishra and Ashok Dinda.
England: Alastair Cook (Captain), Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Stuart Meaker, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler.
Umpires: Messrs Steve Davis (Australia) and Sudhir Asnani.
TV umpire: Mr. Shamshuddin.
Match Referee: Mr. Andy Pycroft (Zimbabwe)