Posted by: nestaquin | November 21, 2008

India v England ODI Series – India Mid Series Review


With the series almost halfway through and England needing to proceed undefeated from this point on to win the Hero Honda Cup, the ever pragmatic Rajesh Kanaan has some sagely advice for the English team, while seeming far from satisfied at India’s performance despite their impressive winning ways.

It’s a shame to have to refer to statistical tables to decide a winner in a sporting contest, but I’m glad Green Park finally reminded us that this was a series between two Test playing sides. For all that, Pietersen’s team still has nothing to show for its efforts, though Peter Moores might take away “the positives” more easily from Kanpur. England were never going to find it easy here despite a 4-0 win over the Saffers at home, but they are improving in India and will salvage some respect in the remaining matches.

It reminds me of the start of the Dravid-Chappell era when India, under a new captain, tonked a strong Lankan team and suddenly, World Cup dreams were in the air. But their true standing was revealed brutally in South Africa and West Indies over the next year. England were never as good as the South Africa result suggested, but neither are they as bad as this series will be spun as. That’s the trouble with having a meth-addled national press – neither India nor England is permitted to be average, it’s either an Oscar or a Razzie.

The story of the series so far has really been one man, but I’ll lay off the paeans – better writers have said plenty. Yes, India were expected to win these matches and, as is their wont, they created a few flutters while doing so. England had only one way to go after Rajkot, and at this rate of improvement, they might even win a game in this series!

The Indian batting has been solidly marshalled by the senior pros Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhoni and Yuvraj. The two openers regularly started strong, and the latter two do a passable Michael Bevan impression. But while the seniors may have papered over the batting cracks, India’s tyros must learn to walk before they swagger.

Raina, Rohit and Yusuf have all perished playing arrogantly dismissive strokes at some point. They must learn to gauge the circumstances and not blindly hit their way out of a jam, as the Aussies have painfully learnt. And Rohit Sharma must really learn to convert those gorgeous 20s and 30s into substantial innings. There is an element of nitpicking in my criticism, as India do have a 3-0 lead, but there will be tougher tests, and some old-fashioned steel is always an asset.

Refreshingly, the fielding was at times spectacular in Kanpur, shaving 20-30 runs off England’s total. The bowling has been unspectacular but steady, which is actually a huge compliment – India doesn’t do steady.

I suspect Harbhajan is afraid to flight the ball because his fragile mien cannot handle the risk of him getting smashed. But he was splendid in Kanpur, especially in outwitting Pietersen, and his 3-31 put the brakes on England. Ishant, though, is still at sea in home ODIs, but I’m not bothered – when you’re as good as he is in Tests, you’re excused most faults. I must repeat – please don’t play him for more than one of the remaining games, we need him next month.

The contrast between the two sides has been evident in their approaches on two fronts, opening and playing spin. The English openers seem rooted in a percentage game era, and have rarely stepped on the gas, and England’s ineptitude against spin has been palpable. Rejigging the batting order was a step in the right direction, but for all the strategising and calls for Panesar and Tresco, the truth is that India are a better side. Sometimes it is as simple as that.


  1. My feeling is that India can play a bit better, but not much. England, however, can play much better and, though they didn’t deserve to win in Kanpur, might have done so as one wicket would have brought Harbhajan to the crease.

    If both sides play to their potential, we might get some tight cricket.

  2. As long as batting captains get to decide whether or not play continues, we’ll always have anti-climactic endings to ODIs. That said, it’s evident that England have looked quite pedestrian compared to India. I’ve blogged about the 3 ways the English can run India close
    1. Let Freddie loose
    2. Remember you have two feet while playing slow bowling
    3. Don’t order baked beans

  3. good work rajesh,

    eng have been very disappointing for me. i have been a long time supporter of the poms and as such have endured a lot of heart ache.

    its incredible that they cannot seem to find a opening combo that works.

    so many have been tried in the past. its no wonder its not a stable stepping stone for the rest of the batsmen.

    i still prefer to see alistair cook in their for his solidity and i think he has the skills to play a long innings against the spinners too.

    if eng get anything near to what they are capable of this series would have been very different. but its the wrong england thats shows up which sucks for fans.

    and dont you just love it when freddie goes all crazy eyed !

  4. Excellent round up Rajesh.

    Totally agree with your plea regarding Ishant. I will add a couple more.

    1) India are up 3-0. What is the necessity of bringing Tendulkar back and risking an injury to him? M Vijay is out of the squad without getting a game.

    2) With the series almost won, blood another keeper and play Dhoni as a batsman.

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