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By Bharath Ramaraj
England embarked on their Ashes 2013-14 trip to Down Under on the back of three successful Ashes campaigns. They had a chance of creating history by becoming the first English team to win four Ashes series in a row. Yes, they did create history, but by becoming the third English team to be whitewashed 0-5 by Australia in an Ashes series. It has truly been an annus horribilis tour for the English team. Now, they at least have a chance to redeem a bit of their pride by putting up a fine show in the One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia.
A few of the seniors like James Anderson and Kevin Pietersen have been rested for the ODI series. It means there are a few fresh legs coming into the setup who won’t feel the deep scars of being thumped 5-0. They also have Ashley Giles taking over as the coach of England team for the shorter versions of the game.
It is extremely difficult to gauge the credentials of a coach who has been in that role for only a few months. But Warwickshire’s cricket faithful who oversaw Giles take their county team to the zenith of their prowess would vouch for the fact that he is a fine coach.
The first and foremost strategy of Giles should be to allow the England team to play with freedom and enjoy their cricket. Under Andy Flower’s regime, in a crystal clear manner it was apparent that during the Ashes series, the entire team looked like a joyless bunch ready to throw themselves in the towel. It is up to Giles to allow players like Boyd Rankin, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Steve Finn, Jos Buttler and company to flourish their way to success.
In recent times, England have gone into ODIs with a set strategy of openers erecting a solid platform and for the aggressive batsmen down the order to up the ante by dealing in fours and sixes. The template won’t change in this series either. Any strategy is built on the personnel that you have in hand. With Alastair Cook and Ian Bell opening the batting, England would look to build their innings brick-by-brick with steady perfection, before unleashing the power house of their line-up in Buttler, Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan during the death. In particular, it would be interesting to see how Buttler plays. He brings that X factor to the line-up. The explosive batsman, who with his blazing sword of a willow, can send the ball soaring over the boundary ropes for a six even when it is a miss hit. He also looks to wallop most of his strokes down the ground.
Morgan has been a touch inconsistent in recent times. At his best, he can find gaps at will, steal singles by running between the wickets like a jack-rabbit and force the opposition captains to scratch their heads by playing shots through unusual areas of the field. When in full flow, his game can be called as a breathtaking exposition of batsmanship in the abridged version of the game.
England have a penchant to pick Tim Bresnan though, his record in ODI cricket is nothing to write home about. More than anything else from England’s perspective, with his former coach at the helm of the affairs hopefully, Rankin would turn into the beast of a bowler that one saw while he was playing for Warwickshire, during the last few seasons. The bowler we saw bowling in the Sydney Test seemed to be a twin brother of Rankin. He certainly cut a sorry figure in that Test by bowling half-trackers and juicy half volleys. The series also opens up the flood gates for Finn to showcase that he has sorted out his run up problems and can bowl with pace and fire.
There is also James Tredwell in the mix. He sticks to the old adage of bowling slow through the air and forcing the batsmen to generate their own pace. As he holds his action up a little bit in the air before delivering the ball, he tends to judge the footwork of a batsman better than most spinners going around in ODI cricket.
After the Ashes debacle, where England performed woefully, they find themselves in a trench of mediocrity. It is up to the squad members to pick themselves up for the upcoming series against Australia and raise their standards.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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