With youngsters like Virat Kohli (left), Suresh Raina (centre) and Ajinkya Rahane, the future looks bright for the Indian ODI team © Getty Images/ AFP
With youngsters like Virat Kohli (left), Suresh Raina (centre) and Ajinkya Rahane, the future looks bright for the Indian ODI team © Getty Images/ AFP

 

At the onset of this series, most of the Indian fans labeled this as a “payback/revenge” series, conveniently forgetting that winning a series against a fifth-ranked side does not compensate for losing the Test crown in a humiliating manner. On the other hand, most English fans dismissed this as a pointless ODI series. The truth lies somewhere in between; that India would win the series was almost a foregone conclusion, but more than anything else, they needed to experience the winning feeling again. Not to forget, they had a bunch of youngsters to groom for the future. For England, this was a chance for the new ODI skipper and young players to test themselves in unforgiving conditions. In the end, the final scoreline was a just reflection of the gulf between the two sides when it comes to ODIs in the subcontinent, despite the absence of a few star players from the Indian side.

 

Here are a few other thoughts from the series:

 

•The continued absence of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag meant that there was yet another opportunity for Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane to press their cases for permanent inclusion. While Patel flattered to deceive, Rahane’s solidity was reassuring to watch, though the tendency to throw away starts was a bit infuriating. Either way, a Test call-up is not too far away for the Mumbai youngster.

 

Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli were the bulwarks of the middle-order. In particular, Virat Kohli continues to rise and rise. He had a good Champions League prior to this series, and his purple patch refused to stop. Despite a poor Test tour of West Indies, his maturity and form warrants him another shot in the longer format.

 

•What is left unsaid about Mahendra Singh Dhoni? Calm, cool, unflappable, the man with a plan….and by the end of the series, he was invincible too, as England just couldn’t dismiss him at all. Experts are falling over themselves to anoint him as the best finisher in ODI history, and few would disagree.

 

•One was never too enamored with Ravi Jadeja; but with impressive back-to-back series, he has won many fans over. While his batting is not as destructive as a certain Yusuf Pathan, he is more consistent, and he is a much smarter bowler. Along with Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rahane, he has lifted the Indian fielding by several notches. He deserves a prolonged run in the team.

 

•With Harbhajan Singh getting dropped from the side after a long time, there was considerable pressure on the shoulders of Ravi Ashwin to perform. To his credit, he didn’t disappoint – his maturity standing out. While a call for a place in the Test team is a bit premature, he should have cemented his place in the ODI team with this performance.

 

Praveen Kumar was steady, Vinay Kumar was consistent, Umesh Yadav was lacklustre – but the one pace bowler to stand out from the Indian camp was the young Varun Aaron. He had pace, but more importantly he hit the right lengths too. He has four wickets as of now, all of them coming through knocking the stumps down. If he does not go the Munaf Patel way, India could possess a ‘fast’ bowler to dictate terms with the opposition.

 

•To see India put up such a commanding performance in the absence of stars like Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Sehwag and Zaheer Khan was a reassuring sight for Indian fans. With the likes of Rahane, Kohli, Raina, Jadeja, Ashwin and Aaron still in their 20s, the future looks bright for the Indian ODI team.

 

•It was a baptism by fire for Alastair Cook, for whom it was the first ODI series outside England as official skipper. He book-ended the series with a couple of 60s and failed in between. As a captain, he was outsmarted by Dhoni, while his failure to exert any authority over his team-mates during a fractious series was disappointing. Looking on the bright side, it can only get better from here.

 

•Craig Kieswetter might as well be called Kies-dropper. In a series where the opposition keeper shone with the bat and barely made any mistake with the glove, Kieswetter had a shocking series, even by his own standards. As an opener, he could never convert his starts, and with the gloves (barring a couple of sensational catches), he was unusually sloppy, none more damning than the fluffed run-out of Jadeja in the fourth game. With the likes of Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Steven Davies jostling for places, it is hard to see if Kieswetter will get to keep his place for the next ODI assignment.

 

•Jonathan Trott might be wondering what he has to do to get some love from the fans. Despite being the most successful ODI batsman of the year, there are calls for Bell to replace him in the playing XI (this despite Trott possessing a far superior average and strike rate compared to Bell). In a side consisting of batsmen who looked completely out of their comfort zone, Trott was perhaps the only player who seemed to have a measure of how to play the spinners. Whether the English accept it or not, Trott is the only batsman who warrants his place in the side, based on current form.

 

•Ravi Bopara’s performance in the series was utterly non-descript and has done enough to justify his future exclusion from the team. But the real disappointment was Kevin Pietersen. Despite one good innings, it is alarming how his batting has fallen away in ODIs. For a player who was once the most exciting batsman in the game, it has been a steep decline, and one hopes that he still has it in him to resurrect his brilliance.

 

•A lot was expected from Samit Patel and Bairstow in this series. While Patel had one good match with the bat and a mixed series with the ball, Bairstow found out for himself how much different the subcontinent is, compared to England. Ashwin and Jadeja toyed with him and by the end of the series, Bairstow’s inexperience was clearly exposed. This will be a valuable tour for him though, and he can only get better for the experience.

 

•Graeme Swann came into this series with the reputation of being the world’s best spinner. In the end, he was outbowled by his own team-mate and will be remembered for his unflattering figures, churlish outbursts against team-mates, dropped catches and a poorly-timed autobiography.

 

•In the absence of Stuart Broad and James Anderson, Tim Bresnan was the leader of the pace attack; but the real hero was Steven Finn. Easily, the biggest positive to come out of this series for England; While his boorish behaviour and misplaced aggro can be put down to his age, his bowling was the only thing which kept most of the games competitive. Like most of the youngsters in the team, this experience will be invaluable down the road.

 

•Jade Dernbach has been hyped for a long time now, but over the course of three games, his ‘variations’ were dismissed to all parts of the ground and sometimes over it. In the end, all he showed was poor discipline on and off the field.

 

•Overall, the English team was completely different to the one which defeated India in the rain-affected home series a month ago. They were clueless against spin and the batting always seemed one wicket away from a collapse. A lack of support for Finn meant that the bowling was never going to contain a rejuvenated Indian line-up. The biggest shock of all, was their huge drop in fielding standards, as the Indian side outperformed them in the department by a mile (Donkey jibes, anyone?!).

 

When they were not busy getting into verbal battles with the Indians, they occupied themselves berating their own team-mates. Normally, this would point to a side in decline; but in Andy Flower they have one of the top coaches in the world, who is capable of turning the fortunes around. While it has been yet another whitewash in the subcontinent for them, the players will be wiser for the experience and hopefully, it will lead to wiser team selections in the future.

 

All in all, it was a great Diwali gift from the Indian side to their fans. While it will not erase the memories of the Test series humiliation, it has gone a long way in applying balm over the wounds.

 

(The writings of Benny, aka tracer007, are the products of the mind of a cricket fanatic who has been following the game for the last 15 years. After a brief stint in school cricket in the 90s, he decided that chasing a red ball around a field in white flannels as a substitute fielder was not really getting him anywhere. He subsequently entered medical school, where he spent half the time learning how not to kill a patient and the rest of the time, sharing his opinions about the state of international cricket to people who had no idea of what he was talking about. Since graduation, he is living in the U.S., where he chanced upon the world of cricket blogging; and in an instant, an idea to start a cricket blog shot through his brain ‘like a tracer bullet’ and (likeatracerbullet) was born)