By Tim Holt
Doubts about the English team’s pedigree in the Test arena that lingered after the Ashes triumph were indelibly put to rest following the surgical dissection of the top-ranked Indians. The ruthlessness with which they annihilated India left one in awe of England's present class and potential.
That was the reality in the Test arena, but questions still remain over England’s ability in the overs-limit format. The selectors seem to have viewed the team’s failings in the shorter form of the game, and have duly selected a squad full of players with youthful grasp of the needs of the format.
The biggest issue for England in the series ahead against India is to find balance in their batting that will facilitate their future successes in ODIs.
Unlike Team India, whose World Cup win was propelled by some belligerent batsmen, English’s batting is characterised by it's adherence to traditional approach with the likes of Alaistair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott being prime examples.
Keeping this in mind, England’s tour of India is likely to see these three batsmen incorporate more innovation into their batting or it is unlikely that they will all be in the team together. Even Kevin Pietersen, a batsman natural for ODIs, needs to assert his class in this series or run the risk of being confined to the Test arena.
A God-sent for England is Johnny Bairstow, who has delighted the crowds with the purity of his hitting. Whether Bairstow is used in the top four, or as a dangerous finisher in the slog-overs is to be seen.
Other young players like Alex Hales and Jos Butler need to be put in the team in this series to assess their capabilities in what will be a cauldron setting. In particular Hales is a very talented and explosive stroke player, making him perfectly suited for the ODIs.
The other day somebody compared the English bowling to the wealth of West Indies fast bowling of the 1970s and 80s. The comparison wasn't made with regard to pace but in terms of exceptional depth.
The epitome of this depth is Steve Finn, a young bowler of real pace and skill who will probably walk into any contemporary Test team in the world. That he is on the periphery for England speaks volumes for the depth of England’s wealth of world class fast bowlers. Finn has it all, and the fact that he was overlooked recently by England means that he must be raging to prove himself and establish his place in the team.
Finn, Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker should be the three attacking bowlers of this England team. All three should make some of the Indian batsmen hop like a cat on a hot tin roof by getting the ball whizz around their heads at 150-plus kms.
The rest of the pace battery should be made from smart all rounder types. Firstly Tim Bresnan should walk into any England ODI side, for he is not only a very smart bowler with an abundance of skill, but a very savvy lower-order batsman.
Then there is Chris Woakes. A talented all rounder, who has a real presence about him. Nothing worries him. His bowling is very similar to Glenn McGrath - nagging line and length coupled with a nice bit of heady seam and occasional swing.
Spin will be in the able hands of Graeme Swann, who is also a very dangerous lower order hitting.
So if England decides to field two spinners, the choice will be between either the part time left-arm spin of Samit Patel coupled and the leg-spin of Scott Borthwick.
It is logical that Patel will be preferred in this form of the game due to his batting, but it is hoped that Borthwick gets a few games to see how his leg-spin stands up against the masters maulers of spin bowling. If he can be a threat against the Indian batsmen, then it is likely that his talents will take him to the Test arena.
(Tim Holt was born in Northern Ireland in 1952. He found his love for cricket when he was sent to South Africa between 1964 and 1966. He is an unashamed cricket purist who feasts on Test cricket. His passion for the game cuts across geographical boundaries and into the domestic competitions. Tim, who has a background in journalism and teaching, has lived and worked in many places across the world)