England enjoyed an extremely successful 2012 in one-day international cricket, winning 12 out of 15 matches and suffering only two defeats. But the tourists know they will have their work cut out in the five-match series against India – the reigning world champions – who have beaten them 5-0 on their last two visits. England previously tasted victory in 50-over cricket in India in April 2006. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side were recently in battle with Pakistan and will be smarting after a 2-1 loss to their arch rivals in the three-match ODI series. The Indians will be looking to restore their pride in what has been devastating two months in cricketing terms after losing 2-1 in the Test series to England and now being defeated by Pakistan in their more favoured format.
England have selected an inexperienced 15-man squad for India, choosing to rotate ahead of a year that contains back-to-back Ashes series and the ICC Champions Trophy. Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott and James Anderson are rested, with Stuart Broad only due to join up with the squad after the third ODI once he recovers from an ankle injury. After a difficult two months for the home side, it would be a surprise if they chose to do the same, despite the relentless run of matches in recent weeks. India’s cricket-loving public are now demanding success when before they expected it.
Former England spinner Ashley Giles, who last season won the County Championship with Warwickshire, will assume the helm of England’s 50 and 20-over sides for the first time this series. The decision was taken to ensure maximum longevity for Andy Flower as Test coach. It is a move that will undoubtedly set the stall for other cricketing nations by splitting the responsibilities of the coach too, as well as the captain. The 39-year-old has risen effortlessly through the coaching ranks combining his duties with his former county and England before coming limited-overs coach of the national side. It is a tough first assignment for Giles, with his limited experience of international coaching in mind, but one will that will not faze a man who regularly had to answer his critics as a player.
In Test cricket, the wicket keeper position is Matt Prior’s to lose but the same cannot be said in limited-overs cricket. During the South Africa series last summer, Craig Kieswetter was used but failed to cement his place again, with a highest score of 33 in a lost cause at Trent Bridge. Jos Buttler, however, has looked impressive in T20 cricket, especially with the bat where he has been particularly destructive. He could do the same job in ODIs if the selectors chose to go with him come Friday for the first match in Rajkot. The 22-year-old scored 15 not out and an unbeaten 33 in the two T20 matches against India before Christmas. Despite already making his ODI debut – where he was dismissed for a second-ball duck in the UAE – you can be sure that the Somerset man will take his second chance with both hands in an environment where he has already thrived.
After Kevin Pietersen’s short retirement from ODI cricket last summer, Ian Bell replaced the South African at the top of England’s order. The Warwickshire batsmen was able to make good use of building an innings by averaging 45 throughout the South Africa series. Bell has been used as an opener 38 times in this format by England but he showed considerably more promise during the summer. In England’s opening warm-up match against India A on Sunday, both Pietersen and Bell opened together in place of Cook, who was recovering from a cold. Bell, 30, hitting 91 off 89 balls – in what was scant consolation in an otherwise dour England display – while Pietersen was dismissed for just 19 early on. It is unlikely that it will become a straight shoot-out between the two for a place in the side due to England’s lack of batting experience in the absence of Trott. The obvious option will most probably see either Pietersen or Bell being slotted lower down in the order.
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