England won their first international game on their long, painful India tour at Eden Gardens – the venue of perhaps their most nightmarish cricket moment ever, when Carlos Braithwathe destroyed Ben Stokes in the final over to snatch the World T20 championship from their hands in April last year. Poetically, it was Ben Stokes who walked away with the Man of the Match award this Sunday, after he put in a superb all-around performance to deny the Kohli-led India a 3-0 sweep. Propelled by Kedar Jadhav, India fell short by five runs in a 320-run chase. However, both teams established a world record of the highest runs ever scored in a three-match ODI series – at 2090. India won 2-1 in a closely-fought series, unlike the Tests where they swept the five-match series 4-0.
This was India’s last ODI before the all-important Champions Trophy in England in June. Let us evaluate their individual performances, and choose a likely squad for the tournament:
Shikhar Dhawan (2/10)
12 runs in two matches. The selectors stressed that this would be Dhawan’s “final” opportunity, after he was injured for most of 2016 despite his decent ODI form. He failed in both the ODI games at Pune and Cuttack, and was finally dropped for Ajinkya Rahane in Kolkata. India has not been able to find a stable opening pair since the injury of Rohit Sharma – and their opening partnership was the only blot in an otherwise all-around series. Dhawan looked uncomfortable at the crease, and one wonders whether we have seen the last of him in the blue jersey – at least for the time being. Luckily for him, his younger opening partner hasn’t taken his opportunities either…
KL Rahul (3/10)
24 runs in three matches. Boom or bust. That’s not a reputation any young player would want at the beginning of a career. While he has settled at the top to replace Dhawan in Test cricket, Rahul failed in all three ODIs after being overtly aggressive – showing an itchy impatience that usually comes off in longer forms. Rahul hasn’t done himself any favors, which is why Kohli and the middle order have had to become rescuers in each of the three matches.
Ajinkya Rahane (1/10)
The sole game he got in Kolkata after Dhawan’s failures was supposed to be his opportunity to snatch. But Rahane proved further why he isn’t suited to the ODI format, and why he averages a paltry 30 after 75 games. He scored one run, and was actually out off the first ball he faced, but nobody appealed though the ball had grazed his glove. He was bowled by David Willey’s late swing, missing the ball by miles, sealing his fate. This failure may prove to be a blessing for Dhawan, Rahul and most of all, Rohit Sharma – who will waltz into the Champions Trophy side without having played a game in six months. India needs him at the top, now more than ever.
Virat Kohli (7/10)
An ODI series without Kohli as the Man of the Series? Indeed. In fact, he wasn’t even the top scorer for his own side, third behind Jadhav and Yuvraj Singh, with an impressive average of 61. Kohli started the series with a bang and a century in a chase, but once again failed in the first innings of the next game – fueling the enigma of him averaging a “paltry” 41 in the first innings and 65 in the second. He looked set for another chase in Kolkata, but fell after his half-century. For once, he looked human, and a 50 was his “failure” – such are the high standards of India’s new ODI captain. In the process, he also lost his first game as captain at home in 20 attempts – a stunning streak ending right before the T20 series, arguably his most prolific format. All the captaincy in the world couldn’t stop his team from conceding more than 300 in each of the matches.
Yuvraj Singh (8/10)
An incredible comeback by the 35-year-old Southpaw saw him finish the three games with an average of 70. In contrast to Kohli, his 150 came in the first innings, but it was under pressure, too, as he played for a place in the side as well as rescuing his side from a horror start. In the two chases, Singh looked good, but ended up with just 60 runs off the two games. Nevertheless, he has sealed his spot in the middle order for one final tilt at a title in England – and has spelt the end of Suresh Raina’s ODI career.
MS Dhoni (6/10)
Again, the two chases saw India’s greatest finisher fall short on both occasions. At this stage of his career, he gets exposed as a ‘grafter’ if he doesn’t have an aggressor at the other end. He rode Yuvi’s century with ease in the second match before being comfortable enough to play some vintage shots towards the end of his century – only his 10th in ODI cricket. But he will be happy with his performance, though he should have gone on to do more than a slow 25 off 36 balls at Kolkata, when the team needed him to guide the younger Jadhav. If he doesn’t converts on his starts, his scores turn out to be liabilities while chasing big totals.
Kedar Jadhav (9/10)
Top scorer and Man of the Series. Average of 77. The 32-year-old Punekar came of age in spectacular fashion, scoring a century in the first match at Pune, a cameo in the second towards the end and an awesome 90 in the third, falling short just at the end after he brought down the equation to six off four balls. He may have lacked a bit of experience in the end, refusing to take singles and give Bhuvneshwar Kumar the strike (he can bat), preferring to do a Dhoni and depend on his own big shots to win India the game. But his temperament remained cool, and he will go down as India’s biggest find on the eve of a big tournament. His resourcefulness and confidence is a boon to the team that was lacking a ‘finishing’ flourish over the last few years.
Hardik Pandya (8/10)
The lanky Gujarati all-rounder proved his worth with both bat and ball, albeit a little inconsistently. He put in terrific performances in Pune and Kolkata, but got walloped in Cuttack. His swagger is hard to deny though, as he almost got India home with Jadhav in the final match, before dying by the sword and missing a length ball. His strike rate of 130 was only lesser than Stokes in the series, and his five wickets were crucial – sealing himself the seaming all-rounder spot for the near future, becoming India’s ODI ‘Ashwin’ – because the real one isn’t as effective in this format as he is in Test cricket.
Ravindra Jadeja (6/10)
Harebrained batting in both the chases didn’t make up for his throttling and superbly controlled bowling performances in the middle overs. Despite only four wickets, he remained the ONLY bowler to finish with an economy rate of less than six – a great achievement in a series where 350 was a par score. Jadeja needs to work on his batting in the lower order though, and can’t simply be depended on to come in, smash a few and play a suicidal shot in the worst situation. He is better than that.
R. Ashwin (4/10)
Not the best, as expected – three wickets at an economy rate of seven. And all three came in the second match at Cuttack. Ashwin struggled in the first innings, making Jadeja India’s premiere spinner in this format. His batting isn’t as effective either in the smash-and-dash atmosphere. He will have to hold on to his spot – given that he isn’t favored to retain it in England, where he could arguably be even less potent as he was here.
Umesh Yadav (3/10)
One match, and he went at nine an over before being dropped for the more studied Bhuvneshwar Kumar. They will continue to be interchanged in the future, depending on the pitch and opposition. Yadav’s pace is useful in certain conditions, though he is treated as more of an expensive wicket-taker. He also depends a lot on Mohammad Shami being around, with whom he bowls well in tandem with.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (6/10)
He bowled well in the death overs at Cuttack, though he could have done better in Kolkata. Yet, he remains a better bowler because of the IPL and his experience with the Sunrisers Hyderabad. It’s a pity Jadhav didn’t trust his batting, because Kumar had played very well on India’s last test tour to England. He will be useful in June, and India will do well to utilize his crafty skills accordingly.
Jasprit Bumrah (4/10)
India’s best ODI bowler over the last year had a disappointing series, but was a little unlucky in Kolkata. His five wickets came at 7.5 an over. Before this series, he was the most economical ODI bowler in the last few years. He was a little awry, but then the conditions were never suited to his pace. He remains India’s best hope to make incisive breakthroughs deep into the innings.
Probable Squad for Champions Trophy:
Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan/Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma/Amit Mishra