It is a credit to the Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni that he has cleared his head and leads a young side from the front in a series that they had absolutely no intention of losing © Getty Images

 

By Rohan Kallicharan

 

There is absolutely no love lost between the current Indian and England cricket teams. There could be mutual respect, but it’s pretty evident that the two sides do not, at this moment in time, particularly like each other.

 

Quite frankly, it is exactly as it should be, as long as honesty and fairness is not called into question. International sport is not meant to be a walk in the park. And with the pride of a nation at stake, I would never criticise the sportsman who utilises the famous technique previously referred to by Stephen Waugh as ‘mental disintegration’. If players are not able to withstand the psychological as well as physical pressures of international sport, they have no right to be competing at the highest level.

 

However, there is a fine line between what is acceptable and that which brings the game into disrepute. England have risen to the top of the world game with a very aggressive unit, one which destroyed the Australians in last winter’s Ashes series, before mauling the Indians during the English summer.

 

It is fair to say that both sides have been pretty close to that line, possibly and only just, without crossing it during the course of this ODI series. In many respects, it could be argued that it was necessary to breathe life into a series that many suggested was meaningless, one in which players might have been expected to go through the motions.

 

Retrospectively, this was never going to be the case. This England team, under coach Andy Flower, knows no other way to play the game, and India are no shrinking violets. The One-Day World Cup champions had a very big point to prove after their humiliations in England and were not about to allow Alastair Cook’s team to impose themselves on their home turf.

 

So what have we really learnt from this short series, seemingly bolted on to an already packed international schedule with little valid resonance to it? The obvious conclusions are that India remains close to invincible on their own soil, and England as vulnerable as ever on the subcontinent. In reality we saw why India are currently World Champions, and England a side that has failed to reach a World Cup semi-final since 1992 in a 50-over format that they have simply never mastered as well as others.

 

To study at a micro level would give an insight into the future of several players on both sides. Whilst England were missing key components to their side in the form of Eoin Morgan, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, India were missing five of their marquee names from April’s World Cup final in Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh.

 

Amongst the youngsters that impressed were Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, not to mention the very promising Ajinkya Rahane, who looks to have the potential to make it to the very top of the game. Suresh Raina continues to be a very good one-day player, especially in the subcontinent where the ball very rarely gets above waist high.

 

The star of the series for the hosts was Virat Kohli, who came into the series on the back of a successful Nokia CLT20 and looked a confident and classy act. He was omitted from the Test squad that went to England, but the selectors must look to embed him into that format of the game, especially at a time when he is full of runs. Australia will not be an easy task for another Indian player who is rumoured to struggle against the short ball, but if he is going to be a great, or even very good, batsman at the highest level, there is no room for protection; he has to be exposed and will have to learn very quickly.

 

Special mention should perhaps go to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was the target of some, quite frankly, ridiculous criticism during the tour to England. Admittedly, he did not have a great time as a wicketkeeper or captain, and not until the tour was long over did he find any form with the bat. However, he has been a catalyst-in-chief in propelling India to heights within the world game that they have never previously scaled, despite the great names that have emerged over the years.

 

It is a credit to him that he has cleared his head and leads a young side from the front in a series that they had absolutely no intention of losing. He is box office, but like even the greatest, there are times when he needs to regroup, and the few weeks away with the Chennai Super Kings under a less glaring spotlight seems to have rejuvenated him.

 

It is crucial for Indian cricket that the likes of Rahane and Ashwin begin to perform consistently enough to challenge the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan respectively for their places. It is too easy, in a successful unit, for players to become too comfortable, unless the selectors show the ruthlessness to freshen it up. It has been the secret for England in Test cricket in recent years, particularly in the bowling department.

 

For England, there are more questions than answers, and this will have been a chastening experience for Cook so soon into his tenure as One-Day International captain.

 

Kevin Pietersen remains the conundrum in the one-day set-up, having failed to score a hundred since 2008 in Cuttack, but whilst questions may legitimately be asked about his place in the side, he remains a world class player who averaged over 40 in this series. However, there must now be a place for Ian Bell in this side, who has been England’s form player of the year, yet only appeared belatedly in Kolkata for the last game of the series. If not at the expense of Pietersen, it would appear that Ravi Bopara would be the player most at risk, having failed miserably in this series, and been found wanting for consistency for the last two years.

 

Many English supporters will conveniently downplay the significance of this series, but the response of Andy Flower tells a very different story. The England coach was absolutely livid with his charges after the dismal collapse in the final match of the series. On the flipside, Duncan Fletcher finally has some momentum after the humiliation of the summer, with the likelihood of further success against the inconsistent West Indies over the next six weeks. England need not panic; they remain the world’s best Test side and are also at the top of the T20 rankings. The 50-over game remains their weakness, but they have four years before playing a game in that format that truly means anything.

 

Despite a few tense and unsavoury moments, both sets of players have demonstrated fierce commitment during the series, one in whichIndia, if not gaining redemption, were able to turn the page at the end of a difficult chapter.

 

(Rohan Kallicharan, son of the legendary batsman Alvin Kallicharan, is a West Indian cricket enthusiast based in the UK who played at under-19 level. He is now a Recruitment Professional who writes about the game in his free time. He is a columnist for All Out Cricket Magazine. He also has own sports bloghetoreahamstring.co.uk)