CRICKET / Dhoni's brigade eager to prove that it is firmly on the redemption course
Blame it on the fatigue of watching and discussing the game! The average cricket fan in the country is far from excited about India's on-going one-day series against England.
From the delight of regaining the World Cup to the disenchantment in England, the Indian cricketers and their fans have experienced the extremes in a short span. The joy of watching two Indian teams play the Champions League final was hardly a consolation.
India's thumping victory over England at Hyderabad was just the kind of impetus the fans needed to rekindle their enthusiasm. The impact on the cricket lovers remains to be seen because the customary clamour for complimentary tickets was missing on the eve of the second clash of the series at the Ferozeshah Kotla here.
Slow and low
The slow and low nature of the Kotla pitch means little encouragement for the pace trio spearheaded by Tim Bresnen. Wicket-less and taken for 66 runs in his 10 overs, Bresnen will likely come hard at the Indian top-order to erase the bitter experience of Hyderabad. He will find bowling on the sub-continent's pitches hugely different from home.
Among the spinners, Graeme Swann made an impression in the first game. It was clear that the Indian batsmen were far from comfortable with the variations the off-spinner had in his armoury.
Not much, however, should be read into England's batting display, or the lack of it, the other night. The series has just begun. Skipper Alastair Cook proved that he is comfortable in these conditions and hence, will always be a threat. Kevin Peitersen, run out early at Hyderabad, and Ravi Bopara, would surely use their IPL-experience to serve the team better.
Sense of adventure
Craig Kieswetter and Jonny Bairstow have done enough to prove their sense of adventure when faced with challenges. They love to be aggressive.
The contribution of Andy Flower as coach can never be undermined. This humble man from Zimbabwe is believed to have plotted the downfall of India in England. Even in India, Flower's presence in the dressing room can give Cook all the inputs he needs to take the best decision on the field.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men may not look very intimidating but did prove effective in the lung-opener that never really rose as a contest. Dhoni's form with the bat looks ominous and Gautam Gambhir is hungry to make up for lost time.
Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane should consider themselves fortunate to get these opportunities in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
The middle-order, minus Yuvraj Singh, surely has the capability to stand up to the pressure, as seen at Hyderabad. Virat Kohli still has some way to go before he learns to value his wicket.
Dhoni, Raina and Ravindra Jadeja rescued India from early crisis but need to be consistent. Putting runs on the board will be Dhoni's preference.
The inexperienced bowling attack, including Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav and an untested Varun Aaron, needs the cushion of a tall score on the board to boost its confidence. R. Ashwin and Jadeja will obviously look forward to repeat the dose they administered to England the other night.
In a nutshell, it promises to be an intense contest. Cook's men will strive to maintain their reputation of being fiercely competitive. Dhoni's brigade is ready to prove that it is firmly on the redemption course.
The teams (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), G. Gambhir, A. Rahane, P. Patel, V. Kohli, S. Raina, M. Tiwary, R. Jadeja, Praveen Kumar, R. Vinay Kumar, R. Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, V. Aaron, S. Arvind and Rahul Sharma.
England: A. Cook (captain), C. Kieswetter, Ian Bell, J. Trott, K. Pietersen, J. Bairstow, R. Bopara, A. Hales, J. Buttler, S. Borthwick, Samit Patel, G. Swann, T. Bresnan, J. Dernbach, S. Finn, C. Woakes and S. Meaker.
Umpires: Billy Bowden and Shahvir Tarapore. Third umpire: Sudhir Asnani. Match referee: Roshan Mahanama.
Match starts at 2.30 p.m.