In the year of the T20 World Cup and the inaugural World Test Championship final, most bilateral ODI series are expected to fly under the radar and this India-England series is no different. After being close to their full-strength in the T20I leg of the India tour, England will be without three of their 2019 World Cup heroes – Joe Root (rested), Jofra Archer (injured) and Chris Woakes (rested) – for the three-ODI series. It’s not an entirely context-free series, though, with World Cup Super League points up for grabs.
This is a chance for England to take their first steps towards prepping for their 50-over World Cup defence in 2023 in India and test out the likes of Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Liam Livingstone and Reece Topley, who didn’t feature in the T20I series at all. In the absence of Root, their second-highest scorer behind Eoin Morgan in ODIs, England need to choose between Ali, Billings, Livingstone and Ben Stokes for the No. 3 spot.
Livingstone, who is uncapped in ODI cricket, looks a decent bet, having opened for Lancashire and more recently for the Perth Scorchers in their run to the Big Bash League final. But then again, England could bump Stokes up to No. 3 and slip in Billings as a finisher, something that Dinesh Karthik suggested on Sky Sports during the T20I series.
Matt Parkinson, Livingston’s Lancashire team-mate, has been in England’s bubble since January for the subcontinent tour of Sri Lanka and India, but hasn’t got a game yet. Sure, Parkinson is a legspinner who doesn’t have too many attacking variations like Adil Rashid, but is he good enough to be England’s second spinner?
Likewise, Kuldeep Yadav has got very limited game-time since the last IPL in the UAE – eight matches to be precise, including a tour game in Sydney. Yadav hasn’t played together with fellow wristspinner Yuzvendra Chahal since Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow picked them apart when England and India last met in this format, in that World Cup match at Edgbaston.
Since then, MS Dhoni has retired from international cricket and Kedar Jadhav has been axed from the set-up. The absence of a Jadhav-like player – a batsman who can pitch in with the ball – proved a thorny issue for India in Australia. The selectors and the team management have addressed it by bringing Washington Sundar and Krunal Pandya into the mix. Hardik Pandya bowled short, sharp spells in the T20Is, but India may manage him more carefully as far as the longer formats are concerned in a T20 World Cup year.
Suryakumar Yadav, who made stellar contributions with the bat in the T20Is and impressed Virat Kohli with his “X-factor”, could be the latest entrant in India’s middle-order roulette in ODI cricket.
Completed matches, most recent first
In the spotlight
T Natarajan‘s ability to nail yorkers, often on demand, makes him a compelling white-ball prospect, but this ODI series and the following IPL will be a test of his fitness more than anything else. Having emerged from a tennis-ball background, Natarajan hadn’t played as much with the cricket ball on the bounce as he did in 2020-21. R Ashwin revealed on his YouTube channel that the left-arm seamer had a tibia issue on his knee during the Australia tour and has since returned to the side after undergoing rehab at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.
Sam Curran batted as low as No. 9 in the T20I series decider, with Morgan putting it down to a tactical move to perhaps break up the bevy of left-handers in the England line-up. On the whole, Sam Curran was under-utilised by Morgan – both with ball and ball. He got to bat in two other innings, scoring 3 and 6* from No. 7, and got to bowl just ten overs in five outings. In the absence of Archer and Woakes, Sam – or his elder brother Tom Curran – could potentially be given greater responsibility in the ODIs.
In the deciding T20I on Sunday, India left KL Rahul out to “bring in a good balance with bat and ball”. He could miss out again if they lean towards a sixth-bowling option for the ODI series opener. Kohli has also confirmed that Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan would start the ODI series as openers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is set to lead the seam attack in what will be his fourth ODI since the 2019 World Cup.
India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 KL Rahul/Krunal Pandya/Washington Sundar, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal/Kuldeep Yadav, 11 T Natarajan
Morgan hasn’t guaranteed a return for Ali and if he doesn’t make the cut, Livingstone may make his ODI debut on Tuesday. Billings, who has excelled as a finisher since his return to the ODI team in 2020, is likely to play his first match of the tour.
England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Ben Stokes, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Sam Billings, 7 Moeen Ali/Liam Livingstone, 8 Sam Curran/Tom Curran, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Reece Topley, 11 Mark Wood
Pitch and conditions
The MCA Stadium in Pune has traditionally rolled out pitches that favour batsmen. The venue has hosted only four ODIs so far, with 300 having been breached thrice. The last time England faced India in Pune, Jadhav and Kohli cracked centuries to hunt down 351 in January 2017. The weather is expected to be fine for the duration of the match. All three ODIs will be played behind closed doors.
Stats and trivia
- Stokes is set to play his first ODI since his starring role in the 2019 World Cup final at Lord’s.
- Both India and England come into this series on the back of 2-1 ODI series defeats at the hands of Australia.
- Among teams that have played at least ten ODIs since the last World Cup, India have the poorest record in the powerplay with the ball: six wickets at an average of an average of 144.16 and economy rate of 5.76. During this period, England’s bowlers have taken 17 wickets in the powerplay at an average of just under 23 in nine games.
- Since 2010, India have lost only three bilateral ODI series at home. They had suffered defeats to Pakistan in 2012, South Africa in 2015 and more recently to Australia in 2019.
“Even though we didn’t pick up the trophy, we learned a huge amount. It has been an extremely productive tour so far in white-ball cricket. The biggest picture always being the World Cup in both white-ball formats. You don’t always have to win every series in order to win a World Cup. You continuously need to get better, need to be tested as a side, need to fail in order to learn. That involves losing, which isn’t fun, but it is part of the journey.”
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“Along the way, scheduling and workload is something everyone will have to be very aware of and keep an eye out for, especially in today’s day and age where you just don’t know where restrictions might come in.”
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Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo