Eden Gardens, Kolkata

While the first ODI between the two rivals was played at Chennai under the cloud of the distressing Amanat case, with much of India’s NYE celebrations put on hold, the country tried its best to pay attention to the curious case of India’s limited overs expertise.

Saeed Anwar reincarnated?

Unfortunately, if fans were looking for a ray of light to pull them out of recent gloom- sports or otherwise- the first India-Pak ODI since World Cup 2011 was not to be it. Within 30 minutes, the country was cast back into the dark ages (90s), cruelly being reminded of life without Sachin Tendulkar– despite the fact that he does not need to contribute in ODIs anymore. The Time Machine read: 29-5. So much for India’s mastery over the shorter version.

1.5, 1.5

MS Dhoni then came in and played an innings that, ironically, may save his test career. That he is India’s most reliable ODI batsman is no secret, but knowing the selectors and fans short term memories, an ODI century often means that the player is more than ready for some more test cricket. This is precisely the case why Rohit Sharma still hasn’t got his test debut- he hasn’t been doing himself any favours by scoring single digits in his last 6 ODIs. The system might be flawed, but to get around the system, look no further than Chennai brothers Dhoni and Raina. To their credit, they did something that the India of the 90s would never do, but that still took them to a 90s total- the middling 220s. On the verge of breaking down again, Dhoni played one of the best ODI innings of the year, and the sheer timing and scale of the innings meant that Pakistan had to implode soon.

Nothing of that sort happened. As we know now, it is history. Pakistan are 1-0 up in the 3-match series, after they chased down 228 with relative ease- thanks to India’s ploy of an extra batsman backfiring again. Not to say it isn’t the right idea, the execution is almost never right nowadays.

 Gone Delhi Gone

The second ODI at Eden Gardens will offer Indian fans a fresh view of a New Year. Most of them will hope for their team to notice that the worst year of their careers came to a close, and for the surviving lot (almost everyone, surprisingly), this is the chance to turn 2013 into a fresh season of resurrection. Tell that to MS Dhoni, the captain, though. He will, in all likelihood, drop Rohit again for Jadeja (that extra bowler option), when he should actually be dropping Sehwag from the top and playing Rahane. Apart from B. Kumar, of course, India are now falling short even in ODIs in this department, and playing 11 part-timers is all that’s left for Dhoni to try out- considering his fondness for such options.

With 2012 ending on a sour note in more ways than one for a country reeling from political, social and sporting issues, the first match of 2013 could either prove that the turn of the year is not overrated, OR that 1st January is just another day in the mundane lives of overpaid, underperforming Indian cricketers.

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