A ‘dead’ rubber at one of the most beautiful cricket venues in the world holding its first international match! The irony is too stark to ignore.
But as things stand on the eve of the fifth and final One-Day International between India and England, there will be individuals keen to give it all irrespective of the impact of their performances on the eventual outcome.
With the series in its back-pocket, India is breathing easy. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, hit on the hand by rising deliveries on the eve of the matches at Ranchi and Mohali, could have taken a break but the team has no other wicketkeeper.
At the post-match press conference on Wednesday, talking about his fitness for Sunday’s match, Dhoni had said, “it is definitely an opportunity (to rest) but I cannot confirm anything now. I did not get a chance to speak to the selectors.”
During an interaction with the mediapersons on Saturday afternoon, Suresh Raina said, “Dhoni is batting in the ‘nets’ and he is looking good. So hopefully, he will play tomorrow.”
In fact, the experiments may include giving Raina a higher spot in the batting order, as indicated by Dhoni in Mohali.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who turned 25 on Friday, has reasons to be hopeful of a pleasant birthday present. Included in the squad in place of Virender Sehwag for the first three matches of the series and retained for the next two, Pujara is waiting to make his ODI debut.
Projected as an ‘investment’ for the 2015 World Cup, this talented cricketer has shown great form in the longer version of the game this season. The new rule that makes it mandatory to have five fielders inside the circle throughout the innings can work in Pujara’s favour.
With India not due to play ODIs for a while, it would be fair to test Pujara on Sunday. But the question that faces the team management is who does Pujara replace? Yuvraj Singh looks a likely candidate but it will be a tough call to take.
After the success at Mohali, continuing with Rohit Sharma in the opening slot looks a natural progression. Among the bowlers, Mohammad Shami will look to make the most of the conditions here. His inexperience resulted in a few expensive overs at Mohali.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma would like to build on the confidence gained through the series.
England has been busy grooming specialists ahead of hosting the Champions Trophy in June. With England understandably giving more importance to its upcoming tour to 2015 World Cup co-host New Zealand, it would like to use Sunday’s match to experiment.
Paceman Stuart Meaker is likely to replace Jade Dernbach, whose economy rate has left England worried. It remains to be seen whether England would risk playing Tim Bresnan who has suffered a recurrence of his elbow injury.
With the series already lost, England would be looking for a consolation victory. After all, it is not such a bad idea to finish the tour win a victory. As the in-form newcomer Joe Root put it, “there is so much to play for. After all, beating India in its backyard is always a challenge.”
Meanwhile, taking the morning weather conditions here into consideration, the Match Referee Andy Pycroft has deferred the starting time of the match by half an hour to 9.30 a.m.
The squads (from): India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shami Ahmed, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Amit Mishra and Ashok Dinda.
England: Alastair Cook (capt.), 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: Steve Davis (Australia) and Sudhir Asnani. TV umpire: C. Shamshuddin. Match Referee: Andy Pycroft (Zimbabwe).
Match starts at 9.30 a.m.