If England wins the fifth ODI at Sophia Gardens, India will return home empty-handed
A question was constantly addressed to the International Cricket Council award winners at London on Monday — “The Indian team did not turn up, your remarks?” The replies ranged from the diplomatic “ask-them” to the non-committal “I don't know.”
And then a British television scribe lightened the mood when he asked cricketer-of-the-year Jonathan Trott: “The Indian team has not turned up this entire summer and why do you think that happened?”
The query highlighted the World Cup winner's inability to live up to its mighty reputation throughout the tour, which has been blighted by defeats and lack of spirit.
“The Indian team is a very good team and don't get me wrong on that,” replied Trott. However, that was no consolation for the followers of the squad, who watched the halo of M.S. Dhoni's men slowly dissipate in England.
The fifth and final match of the NatWest series at the Sophia Gardens here on Friday offers the last chance for India to reveal intent and true worth despite all its woes, ranging from missing key players to coping with the weather's damp ways.
Dhoni and company have had their spells of unwinding over the last few days — from go-karting to shopping — as the time under the hardly visible English sun draws to a close. Getting away from their cricketing routines after struggling with losses is, perhaps, one way to switch off and start afresh.
Having lost the Tests and the lone Twenty20 and now hopelessly trailing 0-2 in the One-Day series, it may seem to be a picture of gloom and doom but the weather gods have played their part in scuppering two matches with the games at Chester-le-Street and Lord's getting affected.
Openers Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane and the duo of Dhoni and Suresh Raina have proved that the England bowlers can be reined in with an aggressive medley of shots and sharp singles.
Among the bowlers, R. Ashwin has held his nerve in recent games and if the seamers can tighten up their initial spells, India would be well served.
Ravindra Jadeja's presence has reduced Dhoni's reliance on Raina and Virat Kohli to fulfil the fifth bowler's quota, but, as the skipper has constantly repeated, the team has to perform well in all three departments. It is a cliché, yet so true.
Lesson for youngsters
On Thursday, the team preferred optional practice, but out in the middle one man knocked hard with his bat.
Rahul Dravid may be playing his last ODI but there is no way he is going to ease his feet from pre-match training. His intensity and the way he moulded himself in accordance with the demands of one-day cricket is a lesson for all the youngsters in the squad. “I hope he goes out on a high, scoring a hundred and India winning the game. He has been one of my childhood heroes,” said Ashwin.
The England squad, meanwhile, was all about booming shots and loud laughter during its training schedule in the morning. “Winning breeds happiness,” said Alastair Cook. Despite pocketing the series, the England captain is aware that his squad has been tested by India's new players and has also struggled when Dhoni and Raina were on song during the slog.
The team, however, deserves credit for staying alive in the chase with men like Ravi Bopara and the tail being positive.
Broad will be missed
Stuart Broad will be missed but England has found key men at the crucial moments so far. India, on the other hand, remains desperate to take along at least one victory before boarding the return flight.
As for the weather, rain has been forecast around 4 p.m. local time but with the game being a day-night contest, the match should last the distance.
The teams (from):
India: M.S. Dhoni (capt.), Rahul Dravid, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Parthiv Patel, Ravindra Jadeja, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Vinay Kumar, R.P. Singh, Varun Aaron, Amit Mishra, R. Ashwin, Manoj Tiwary and S. Badrinath.
England: Alastair Cook (capt.), Craig Kieswetter, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Ben Stokes, Ravi Bopara, James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Graeme Swann and Samit Patel.
Umpires: Billy Doctrove and Nigel Llong; Third umpire: Marais Erasmus; Match referee: Jeff Crowe.
Match starts at 6.30 p.m. IST.
Keywords: India's tour of England