The last time India were in England was 4 years ago where they played a 5 match test series, 5 match one day series and one T20 match. Though England clinched the 5 match test series (3-1) and the only T20 international, India came back strongly to win the ODI series by a 3-1 margin. It has been fascinating to see how both the teams have grown in the international arena since then. England currently is the world number one and India is a close second. India has genuinely been a very strong ODI side, with a settled line up, irrespective of the country they play and England will be very aware of it. What makes this series most interesting is the form England are in. They go into this series after few thumping victories against Australia. They have comfortably white washed Aussies and have sent a warning signal to India. India on the other hand will be led by Virat Kohli for the first time in England. Having MS Dhoni in the squad should be an added advantage for the skipper who can share his valuable experience. England wickets are balanced with swing, bounce and pace and is definitely not the toughest place to play cricket. And what can we say about the British summer, probably the nicest conditions to play cricket. India definitely has the talent to come up with the goods against this dangerous England side but it all depends on how far they are willing to go for the victory. With an aggressive skipper who would never go down without a fight and a vastly experienced MSD who can handle any situation perfectly this series is nicely set up for the ultimate battle.
Virat Kohli as a player has not performed well the last time India toured England. He would be eager to set that right and get his numbers up. If he fires from the outset India would look a totally different team and should challenge England on all the three formats. India needs Virat Kohli more as a player than a skipper this time around to challenge this English side who are high on confidence after the Australia series. The facts that would make all the Indians happy is that Virat Kohli averages 92, 76 & 186 in the last 3 years. If he continues the same form, England would have a tough time winning games. The other key player to watch out for is MSD. We can safely call it MSD 3.0. The man who is known for playing according to the situation of the game has now reinvented himself to play according to the situation of his life. India needs MSD to fire all his cylinders during the chases and setting up huge totals for England to Chase. The other key players would be Rohit Sharma, Dhawan & Rahane.
They say the start is the key in any game. Same thing applies for cricket. Rohit & Dhawan’s pair has been formidable for Indian cricket for some time now. They need to continue the good work to give quick and great starts for India. It is not going to be easy in English conditions with English bowlers coming at you with swing and pace. Since England scores and chases 300+ runs regularly, the opening stand from Rohit and Dhawan has to be quick and solid. This will help the middle order to set up the game really well especially with having a good balance of youth and experience in the middle order. This is going to be a valuable experience for players like Hardik Pandya and others who are touring England for the first time. This should give them a good understanding of the conditions before they head to play the World Cup in England next year.
Coming to England, they have been the best ODI team in the world hands down for at least a couple of years now. Especially after Eoin Morgan took over the captaincy he made the team play his brand of cricket. Fearless and dangerous, on their day England can absolutely destroy any bowling line ups in the world. Their last series with Australia is the answer for their dominance in world cricket. So many match winners with sky rocketed confidence, they can just turn the game on their head and win you games for fun. Key players to watch out for are Roy, Hales, Root, Morgan, Buttler & Stokes. These guys have taken the power hitting formula to next level. It is really important for India to make sure these batsman won’t spend much time at the crease. If they do you would look at chasing down totals with 6+ run rate every single time. England have a good settled bowling attack too. They are the home team and well aware of the conditions. With a good mix of swing, pace and spin India is going to have a tough time if they are not focussed and disciplined.
Indian bowlers on the other hand are in fine form with great displays in IPL. It is sad to hear that Bumrah will miss the T20 and ODI series due to a broken finger. Washington Sundar is also out due to injury. BCCI have named Deepak Chahar & Axal Patel as their replacements. India is sure going to miss the services of the no 1 ODI bowler in the world in limited overs format. Ashwin and Jadeja would be key for India’s chances in tests as English bowlers are comparatively weak playing spin than fast bowling. I would like to see a specialist spinner replacing Jadeja in the starting line up as Jadeja doesn’t turn the ball much and is a part time spinner for India. Coming to ODIs the bowling unit looks more settled and Bhuvaneshwar kumar would be the key along with other pacers. Bhuvi is a strike bowler and need to live up to his expectations by picking up early wickets and putting pressure on English middle order.
India definitely need to up their game to beat England in all formats in their own backyard. But for England if they stick to their basics they can win against this Indian team in all the formats. Lets wait and watch who triumphs. It is going to be a cracker of a contest. Fingers Crossed!