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India vs England: Scorcher of an ODI Series
by Partab Ramchand
Aug 19, 2007
Five years ago in one of the most indelible images in Indian cricket Sourav Ganguly took off his shirt on the Lord’s balcony and waved it furiously. So emotionally overcome was the Indian captain by the victory over England in the now famous NatWest Trophy final. Certainly Ganguly will not perform a similar act if India were to win the seven-match one day series that commences at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Tuesday. He has already made it clear that there will be no more shirt waving theatricals. Moreover he is not the captain and Rahul Dravid is the last person one would associate with such vivid acts of emotion.

The Test series is history now and as the teams prepare to battle it out in the shorter version of the game there are a few things to consider from the viewpoints of both sides. For the hosts it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride of late. They surprised Australia `Down Under’ but then it was the turn of the West Indies to surprise them a few months ago. In between they performed below expectations while being eliminated at the Super Eight stage of the World Cup. As far as India is concerned everything will be seen against the backdrop of the World Cup debacle. This is India’s first really serious campaign since then and a lot has happened since then. Virender Sehwag is not in the line up, nor is Harbhajan Singh while Anil Kumble has retired. But the side is still a blend of youth and experience and with the benefit of a morale boosting performance in the Test series India could take on England on level terms even if the hosts are strengthened by Andrew Flintoff’s comeback.

India has performed reasonably well in England over the years. In 1990 they won both the Texaco Trophy matches and in the 1999 World Cup they put it across England in their group match. The NatWest Trophy triumph in which they chased a formidable target of 325 successfully with two wickets and three balls to spare is now part of Indian cricketing folklore. Against that England won the one day series in 1996 comfortably.

So much for the recent past record. As for the present an analysis of the contestants shows that they are evenly matched and a scorcher of a series that could go down to the wire at Lord’s on September 8 could be a prediction that may not be far off the mark. Certainly on paper there is little to choose between the two teams. India for one by comfortably getting the better of Scotland and sharing points in a rain affected match with a much stronger England Lions side have already got the adrenalin flowing. In dry conditions the Indians could prove to be quite a handful and with the sun nowadays shining brightly the tourists who have been in England for about two months now have got fully acclimatized to the conditions. Theirs really is a problem of plenty in both the batting and bowling departments and the tour selection committee has rather delicious options in picking the playing eleven be it at the top of the order, the middle order or the pace and spin bowling. Which three medium pacers to pick from Ajit Agarkar, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan and RP Singh? Which spinner should play, Ramesh Powar or Piyush Chawla? Who should open among Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar? And how does one fit in so many suitable contenders in the middle order?

England as I said will be heartened by Flintoff's comeback as well as by the presence of proven stars like Paul Collingwood, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and James Anderson. Chris Tremlett and Ryan Sidebottom who both did well in the Test series will be looking to establish their places in the one day squad and much the same thing can be said about Alistair Cook. Stuart Broad if he can force his way into the playing eleven has the potential to pull off something special while Ravi Bopara as we saw in the World Cup is a fighter to the core. One day specialist Owais Shah is also around to give the batting a fillip while Matt Prior will be the subject of much focus for obvious reasons. Monty Panesar who had a rather rough time in the Tests will be keen to regain his reputation and so this is an England team that will not be short on motivation. That factor in addition to their obvious skills should be enough to push the vastly more experienced Indians to the limit. I normally love sticking my neck out but this time I will not hazard a guess as to which team will lift the trophy at Lord’s about 20 days from now.

 
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