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With the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series between India and England finally upon us, the focus will now shift from the Test drubbing the hosts meted out to a spineless Indian side. Shiamak Unwalla looks at the possible XI that could take the field against England.
The squad that has been selected for India’s ODI series against England has been done so with an eye on the ICC World Cup 2015. The 17-member squad has a number of familiar faces, but also boasts of some untried hands. There has been some speculation that MS Dhoni will play as a specialist batsman, in which case it is likely that Sanju Samson might make his debut and get an extended run.
Here is the likely XI for the first ODI at Bristol, arranged by possible batting order:
1. Shikhar Dhawan: Dhawan did not have a very good time in the Test series, managing a mere 122 runs in six innings at an average of 20.33, and his technique — or lack thereof — against the moving ball was grossly exploited by James Anderson. However, Dhawan remains a potent weapon in ODIs, having scored back-to-back tons the last time he toured the British Isles during the 2013 Champions Trophy.
2. Rohit Sharma: The start of Rohit’s ODI resurgence could be traced back to the 2013 Champions Trophy, where he formed a solid opening partnership with a then-rampaging Dhawan. He has not enjoyed a lot of success overseas as an opener, but having failed to get an opportunity in the Test series, he will be keen to prove himself again.
3. Virat Kohli: By far India’s best batsman in limited over’s cricket over the past few years, Kohli struggled more than most in the Test series, managing merely 134 runs at an average of 13.4 — a far cry from his usual consistency. He came up with a good knock against Middlesex though, making 71 off 75 balls to help India to a victory. If that is a sign of things to come, England should be worried about him.
4. Ajinkya Rahane: Along with Murali Vijay and Dhoni, Rahane was one of India’s most consistent batsmen in the Test series (which sadly is not saying very much). He is not yet a regular in the ODI team, but looking at the conditions and current form, he should get a few games. He was impressive in India’s tour to Bangladesh which preceded the tour of England.
5. MS Dhoni (c): India’s best ODI batsman after Kohli, Dhoni has perfected the art of finishing games in a manner no-one else in the history of the game has managed to. His mere presence at the crease in the death overs causes bowlers to lose their line and length, and his ability to hit sixes whenever his team needs it the most is a part of modern cricketing folklore. He had a good Test series with the bat, and while his captaincy was under fire in the longer format, he remains a shrewd, canny leader in ODIs. He might not be keeping wickets in this series, so it will be interesting to see where he bats.
6. Suresh Raina: One of Dhoni’s most trusted aides, Raina’s electric fielding and crafty off-breaks make him an ideal ODI player. Dhoni likes having a mix of right and left-handed batsmen to mix things up, which makes Raina’s role as only the second left-handed batsman in the team even more prominent. He led India reasonably well in Bangladesh, and looked in good touch with the bat despite not scoring a fifty.
7. Sanju Samson (wk): Samson has long been touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket. When the someone like Rahul Dravid recommends a young batsman, people are likely to take notice and that is exactly what happened with Samson. If he keeps wickets, it will be one burden less that Dhoni will need to carry, and that augurs well for India. Samson is a top-order batsman, but recently batted lower down the order during India A’s tour to Australia, where he was one of India’s most successful batsmen.
8. Stuart Binny: Binny narrowly pipes Ravindra Jadeja for a spot in the XI mainly due to the fact that the likes of Raina, Rohit and Dhawan can perform the role of back-up spinners if needed. Binny will provide a few overs of his gentle wobblers, while remaining a useful weapon to have lower down the order. His recent six for four against Bangladesh is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
9. Ravichandran Ashwin: Ashwin did not get a game till the fourth Test of the series, and out-bowled Jadeja in the two Tests they played together. While he failed to take a wicket in his first Test (at Old Trafford) of the series, he took three in the only innings he bowled in at The Oval. His batting is always a plus point.
10. Bhuvneshwar Kumar: One of the few players who emerged from the Test series with his reputation not only intact but actually boosted, Bhuvneshwar will be India’s main weapon with the new ball. He got the ball to talk in the Test series, emerging as India’s leading wicket-taker with 19 scalps. With the bat in hand, he looked assuring and confident as he complied 247 runs in the series; more than Kohli Gautam Gambhir, Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit.
11. Umesh Yadav: The only member of the side who is not known for any ability with the bat, Umesh nonetheless scored a savage 66-ball 90 against Australia A for India A recently. Of course, if he actually gets the chance to replicate that innings in this match, it probably won’t be good news for India. With the ball, Umesh is someone who boasts of a large heart and some serious pace. He will be the ideal man to have at both the start and the end of the innings.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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