After completing a stunning turnaround and winning three Tests on the bounce, England managed (somehow) to take the series against India 3-1. After this triumph, that at some points looked very hard to imagine indeed, thoughts now turn to the shorter format of the game, specifically the five match one-day series that starts properly tomorrow at Cardiff.
While the tourists are expected to show more fight, technique and nous in this shorter format, England come into the series as the side in form and with the momentum. Alastair Cook’s troops came from the edge of complete and utter breakdown at Lords, to jubilation and relief as they comprehensively outplayed a ragged Indian side in the last three matches.
With the shorter format, coloured clothing and white balls come some changes in personnel for each side. Out go Stuart Broad for a long-awaited operation, and at least one senior batsman after the news that Alex Hales has been called up to the squad. It is also entirely possible that some of the more senior players, such as Cook and Anderson (who will be needed at their absolute peak for next year’s hectic schedule), may be rested later on in the series. This could leave a gap for Stokes, Woakes or Jordan to come in and stake a claim for a regular starting place. While Steven Finn will of course be anxious to return to the international stage and show everyone that he is a very different player to the one we saw in Australia last year, this series may not be the time for reintegration, coming against an Indian side that will no doubt enjoy the change of format.
For Duncan Fletcher and MS Dhoni this trip has gone downhill very quickly indeed. In the last three Tests the failure of any of their much-vaunted batting line up to make runs hurt them badly as neither the captain nor the lower order was able to bail them out. The bowling was also sub-standard, too often allowing the English batsmen a release shot after an initial build-up of good pressure. Ishant Sharma, Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin (astonishingly underused in the five day matches) now have some serious pressure on them to deliver.
Fletcher and Dhoni have also made changes to the squad, bringing in three uncapped players along with two ODI specialists, as well as letting some of their underperforming batsmen (Pujara, Gambhir) go back to India to work on their technique. Dhoni repeatedly states in his press conferences that the result is often secondary to the processes and performances of the team, but when all three are missing alarm bells must start to ring. The absence of Ishant Sharma, arguably the tourists’ most threatening bowler, does not help.
For both of these sides then this series may feel like an extra few weeks of hard graft on top of an already-gruelling season, but they must remind themselves that with the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand only six months away, there are places to be fought for. For England and India, the road to Melbourne 2015 starts here.
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