After a closely fought first game at the Saurashtra Cricket Association’s new stadium in Rajkot and a one-sided mauling in the second game at the electrifying Kochi stadium, England’s tour of India 2012-13 will march on towards Dhoni territory. Ranchi will host its first ever international ODI, a proud moment for many in the region, and an even prouder moment for the BCCI because of its decision to hold the entire ODI series at small centers. With the crowd in Kochi touching record levels (70000 or more), the obituary for ODI cricket, atleast in the subcontinent, seems to be far from written- despite India’s far-from-encouraging recent performances.
Of course, just when we are assured of some kind of revival in the face of relentless T20 competition, the BCCI will balance things out by holding yet another meaningless ODI one-off series with Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka to remind us that the health of ODI cricket is indeed grave. The attendance at stadiums in Lanka over the last few years makes India’s Ranji matches look like a no-holds-barred EPL derby competition. But, we digress.
Finally, Team India came up with a performance that reminded England that they are indeed playing overseas. That this satisfactory all-around affair arrived after so long that one doesn’t even remember when India had beat another test-playing nation so convincingly, is a matter to be discussed on a better day.
It was business as usual for MS Dhoni, who played his usual cool limited overs hand again- making everybody forget about his tragically bad test form- and even made it a Chennai SuperKings day to remember. After numerous attempts to convince the nation that bits-and-pieces players are the way to go, Dhoni finally got his puppets to sing in a match where everything came together. How else does one explain Jadeja’s scintillating MoM performance- against a team that he has won 3 out of his 4 MoM trophies?
After almost chasing down 326 at Rajkot and falling short, the bowlers made sure that all of them peaked together in a single game, reducing England to the kind of rubble that reminded them of their UAE days in 2012.
As flat and uninspiring this Indian team has been through this tour, it cannot completely distract attention from England’s consistent weaknesses- that they fought bravely to overcome in the longer format. Despite winning their first ODI in India after 14 consecutive losses, they were not very convincing at all- and their heavy loss at Kochi suggested that their top-heavy batting line-up may not seem that intimidating after the early dismissals of their openers. Cricket, though, is a great leveler- and though India have easily played the better cricket over longer periods of time over the first 2 matches, the 3rd ODI at Ranchi will begin with the score locked at 1-1. This is what happens when a team learns to win the bigger moments in an opportunistic manner, with England having done so consistently over their tour after a tough 2012.
Expect Ranchi to be packed to the rafters after Kochi’s generous affection for a team that looked directionless until they heard roars followed by Mexican waves- with most folks at the heartland craving for any kind of international action, thus showing the big city corporate box fans the value of unconditional passion. Whether these stadiums give their fans a comfortable time over 8-10 hours in the searing sun is a different matter, which the managements will need to look into in order to not create another monster like Wankhede.