Men II Boyzz
After the India-England 4-match test series and the mandatory couple of T20s (that serve no purpose other than adding fuel to India’s test fire), the 5-match India-England ODI series- the second of its kind in consecutive years- will be met with raised eyebrows. Already, the tour seems to have been won unofficially by the English team, but this ODI series provides the same opportunity to the same group of forlorn Indian players that lost 4-0 in England last year- a chance to redeem 0.1% of their pride, in similar vein to their predatory 5-0 whitewash in 2011 in the most meaningless ODI series of all time. The tests in England were followed by an ODI series in another continent, and Team India believed that the 4-0 hurt had been undone with a ODI whitewash.
This time, atleast, the series is a logical extension of England’s tour of India, and will see the cream of the English attack back in action after a well-deserved Christmas break. While ODI cricket seems to be lowest on the fan-priority scale right now because of the end-of-season test overdose and round-the-year T20 orgy, there will be atleast 11 Indians waiting desperately to find out if they can blank a confident English side for the third consecutive time in 3 tours. Whatever happens, though, this time, the fact that test form has no bearing whatsoever on ODI form will be lost upon many Indian fans- still smarting badly for a record and morale-shattering test season.
ODI cricket is a whole different ballgame that England isn’t necessarily known for. But this Indian cricket side (formerly known and revered as Team India) is capable, at the moment, of pulling out stale rabbits from the hat- and the final straw could be a couple of shattering losses in this series, or even the series. Nothing is impossible anymore in the tipping-point world of Indian cricket, despite being reigning World Champions in this format. Of course, that is a title easy to forget, considering recent circumstances.
Rajkot, Kochi, Ranchi (debut), Chandigarh and Dharamsala (debut) are the venues for this third India-themed revenge-series. The pitches may be of least relevance, with limited overs cricket being played through the year at these venues- which also means that there is no excuse for underperformance anymore. Dhoni, in any case, will have an entire book of #WellOfCourse matter-of-fact lines ready for the post-match conferences, in what could well be his last official tour in Test Charge.
ODI Cricketer Of The Year
One does get the feeling, though, that this could be a series that Sachin Tendulkar may choose to play- and then announce the R word from a format that he should have left in April 2011. His picking-and-choosing tendency may not go down well forever with the selectors, though there is nobody to stop him from doing the same. If he is serious about wanting to be able to play Australia in the Test Home series come February, somebody must explain to him the importance of stepping down from a part of the game in order to preserve whatever is left of his body.
The spotlight, though, will be on India’s best batsman in this format- Virat Kohli, and England’s very own Kevin Pietersen and Steve Finn. It will be a fascinating battle at the fag end of a memorable tour- one that could become the perfect resurrecting point for Indian Cricket (a loss could help further), and one that could complete England’s resurrection season in exemplary style.