India played only seven ODIs in 2016, and so ex-captain M.S. Dhoni (takes a while to get used to this term) always felt like more of an occasional visitor in the international scheme of things. The World T20, however, had already put his role as captain and keeper under the scanner, given that India were humiliated by New Zealand and then defeated by West Indies in the semifinals. That Dhoni then led a ragtag young Indian team to Zimbabwe for a quick series signaled that he wanted to be in charge of the “transition”. It was coming.
On Tuesday, Dhoni led an Indian team – India A in this case – for the final time. They played the visitors, England XI, at the Brabourne, and almost to vindicate Dhoni’s timing of retiring as leader, lost to the Englishmen despite scoring 304. Fans enjoyed a throwback to the old days, with both Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh scoring fifties, and Ambati Rayadu scoring a century. However, as has often been the case in the recent past, Dhoni let things drift as a fielding captain, with stalwarts like Ashish Nehra and Yuvi being smashed for 82 in their combined 10 overs. That cost them the game, despite Kuldeep Yadav’s five-for. It was a scorecard worthy of a retiring captain, though Dhoni will be happy with the way he demolished Chris Woakes for 23 runs in an over.
Now he will play as a wicketkeeper in the three-match ODI series against an Eoin Morgan-led English side – the first of which will be at Pune on Sunday.
Virat Kohli will lead India out for the first time in colours. The expected XI for the first ODI, on basis of the warmup game:
Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, M.S. Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav
Dhoni is expected to bat higher up the order, as suggested by Virat, who wants his old captain to return back to his fearless ways. Yuvraj will most likely follow him in the order, just like the 2011 World Cup final. Shikhar Dhawan will perhaps be given an opportunity over Ajinkya Rahane as an opener – with this being the “last” chance for Dhawan, as the selectors have mentioned boldly. Either way, one of them will make way for Rohit Sharma when he is back. This is currently India’s full-strength ODI team, and they will be looking to win the series after some scratchy limited-overs form under Dhoni for the last few years.
Yuvraj’s first ODI since December 2013.
18 – number of ODI matches won by India in India against England in their last 22 completed matches since 2005.
The last bilateral series between the two was back in 2014. India lost the Test series 3-1 in England, but won the ODI series 3-1.
England have won the last three ODI matches between the two, including two matches at the tri-series in Australia in January 2015 and one at Leeds in the 2014 bilateral series.
Pune’s match will be the first ODI between the two teams in two years. They didn’t face each other in the 2015 World Cup.
3 – highest number of ODI centuries by an Indian batsman against England, by Yuvraj Singh, who makes his return here. He has scored the second highest number of runs (after Tendulkar), 1313, at an average of over 48 and strike rate of over 100.
Dhoni is third on the list for India, with 1260 runs at 45.
Joe Root is the highest scorer among the active batsmen for England against India in ODIs – with a paltry 336 runs at 37. He will want to improve on that, or double it in this series.
Ravindra Jadeja averages 53 against England in ODIs in 15 innings.
Virat Kohli averages only 38 against England in 23 matches, with two centuries and three fifties.
James Anderson is the highest wicket-taker in the rivalry with 40 wickets in 31 matches.
Spin twins Jadeja and R. Ashwin have 33 and 32 wickets respectively, at averages of less than 24 against England.
Harbhajan Singh is the highest wicket-taker for India against England, with 36 wickets. Jadeja is on the cusp of breaking that record, as is Ashwin.
2 – the number of times India has whitewashed England in a five-match series at home, since 2009, out of three series. England lost the most recent one in 2013 by a 3-2 margin. It was here that Rohit Sharma was promoted back as an opener permanently.