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India aim for clean sweep; England hoping to salvage pride

September 04, 2014 16:01 IST

The Indian cricket team. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Series already in their pocket, a rampaging India would look to keep the foot on the pedal and press for a clean sweep when they take on England in the fifth and final cricket one-dayer in Leeds on Friday.

In a remarkable turnaround following their humiliation in the preceding Test series, India have called the shots in the ODI series, in which England have struggled to match the visitors be it batting, bowling or fielding. 

After the first game was washed out, world champions India have asserted their supremacy in the ODI format by taking 3-0 lead to pocket the five-match series, which is their first in England since 2002, if the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy is neglected on account of a multi-team tournament.

In fact that 2002 win was a tri-series win as well with Sri Lanka as third participants. You have to go back all the way to 1990 for a bilateral ODI series win by India in England, when they took the Texaco Trophy 2-0.

Ravi Shastri and India Coach Duncan Fletcher during a nets session at Trent Bridge. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The common thread between that series win and the current one is Ravi Shastri. He was still playing for India in 1990 while this time around he has been involved as the director of cricket. 

The other vital point being that Mohammad Azharuddin was captain of the Indian team back then. And Mahendra Singh Dhoni has just gone past his record for the maximum ODI wins as Indian captain. 

Both Shastri and Dhoni will look to end this series on a winning note then. And they should be successful in their bid because England haven’t really put up a worthy challenge in any of the matches. So much so that the hosts’ 2015 ODI World Cup plans lie in tatters. 

To make matters worse, their captain Alastair Cook doesn’t want to accept that selection or strategy is at fault in this defeat. This claim is despite the fact that they have been very reluctant to play both Moeen Ali and James Tredwell together in the same eleven.

Alastair Cook, the captain of England. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

That Cook believes his strategy is not wrong either might be key to what is going wrong with the English ODI prospects at this moment.

Their newbie opener Alex Hales has been found out already against the in-swinging delivery. Their middle order is in shambles despite Ian Bell moving down to number three and he is unavailable for this last game due to a toe injury that also kept him out of the Edgbaston game. Gary Ballance has done well in Test cricket but doubts persist over his ability to perform in limited-overs cricket. 

Their top-order has not scored enough runs quickly to provide a cushion to their upcoming batsmen. Furthermore their middle-order has been unable to counter spin in the overs leading to the second power-play. 

They either lose too many wickets in the first 20 overs or before the 35th over, thus not putting any pressure on the opposition at all. They had lost 8 wickets before the last 15 overs commenced in Cardiff, 5 wickets in Nottingham and then another 5 wickets in Birmingham.

Indian captain MS Dhoni acknowledges the crowd. Photograph: Getty Images

In effect, this has meant easy-going for the Indian bowlers. Time and again, Dhoni has stressed that his bowlers – especially medium-pacers – need to get better in the death overs when the opposition has wickets in hand. 

Neither have the wickets been very placid, perhaps barring Edgbaston, and with some purchase in them for the spin bowlers, they have done quite well. This is in sharp contrast to how this same bowling attack suffered in New Zealand. 

The batting line-up had suffered in South Africa prior to that and they too have regained much of their confidence, again thanks to England’s inadequacies.

India's Shikhar Dhawan is congratulated by teammate Ajinkya Rahane during the fourth one-dayer against England at Edgbaston. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

If there is one big positive to come out of this series for the line-up, then it is in the newfound opening pairing of Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan. Dhoni had hinted that going ahead it could mean that Rohit Sharma – when he returns – will possibly bat at number four. 

If that is true then India, in their ongoing preparations for the World Cup, need to strengthen their middle order once again. Rahane moving up means they have one less option. Ambati Rayudu has done well in the limited opportunities afforded, but the think-tank will do well to give Sanju Samson a run-in as well. 

This 'dead-rubber' also affords a chance to rest Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami and presenting Umesh Yadav and Karn Sharma a much-wanted go at the opposition. 

However, in the past, this think-tank – Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher – has been very reluctant in handing out rest to over-worked bodies.

They tend to play the same eleven at every opportunity possible and it remains to be seen if the newly-appointed director of cricket will have a say and bring about a change this time around, particularly keeping Australia-New Zealand in mind.