It’s been an interesting few days between matches in the India-England series. The action on field will resume with the fourth ODI, but the sound-bytes off-field have caused almost as much drama. While MS Dhoni took a not-so-subtle swipe at some of the behaviour by the England team on the field, the reaction from the England camp was all about how they took fierce pride in their game and that there was nothing really wrong with the players’ behaviour on field. As England have discovered though, the bluster does not really work if you can’t back it up with results on the field. It did show vast improvement in the third ODI, but still wasn’t enough to get them over the line.
England: They need to continue on the improvement curve they established in the third ODI, if they want to avoid a white-wash in the series. Most of the work needs to be done by the bowlers, who haven’t been impressive in any of the games so far as a collective force. Graeme Swann and Steve Finn have been the best of the lot, but each has had a match with no wickets and their economy rates of 5.21 and 5.75 aren’t eye-popping either. The worrying aspect for England is that all other bowlers have even higher economy rates. The batsmen too, haven’t been altogether free of blame, even when they put on 298 in the 3rd ODI. Given the flat nature of the pitch, and the eventual result, 320 should have been the score achieved especially since England didn’t lose too many wickets.
India: India have given as good an illustration of home advantage as England had given them a few short weeks ago so far in the series. Two comprehensive wins and one win that demanded some character have already handed them the series. Although a white-wash in ODIs will not really be equivalent to the white-wash India suffered in the England Test series, it will surely go some way towards re-establishing India’s credibility as a powerful cricket team – which had taken a bit of a beating. Even if the wins come at home, the mere act of winning – and winning well – reinforces belief in team and fan. India have been good overall in the series and even with batsmen and bowlers both firing, the most pleasing aspect will surely be the raised fielding standards exhibited by the hosts. It may not have been anticipated, but along with out-batting and out-bowling England, India have also out-fielded them so far.
Both teams could possibly look at making some changes to their playing eleven, given that the series is already decided. For England, the clamour to include Ian Bell in the eleven is increasing daily, with many not able to fathom why he wasn’t part of it in the first place. Jade Dernbach’s less than sterling show has also led to calls to include Stuart Meaker. For India, Umesh Yadav is out with an injury and Abhimanyu Mithun has been drafted in to the squad. The man who most will be expecting to replace Yadav however, is Varun Aaron who can match Yadav for pace and has created quite a buzz around him with his pace. Whether that buzz can be justified or not, is something that only an on-field performance will show.
The venue is the Wankhede – scene of India’s World Cup triumph, and the weather forecast is for bright, sunny skies. England will need some of that sun to shine on their luck if they are to compete. Of all the stats in the series so far, perhaps the most illustrative is that England have only one bowler who has an economy rate of less than 5.50, while India have only one whose economy rate is more than 5.50.