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India v England, 1st ODI: Eye on Champions Trophy, Virat Kohli's team seeks stability

14 January, 2017 2:46 AM
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Fans of the Indian cricket team will follow closely the exploits of MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, in particular, when the series starts on Sunday.

NEW DELHI: The first match of the Virat Kohli Era - in case you missed it, he's now full-time captain following MS Dhoni's resignation from the captaincy - begins on Sunday in Pune with the first of three ODIs against England. History and form points to India, who under Kohli have risen to the pinnacle of the ICC Test Championship and who less than a month ago thrashed England 4-0 in the Test series.

India are ranked third in the ICC ODI Championship and after this series do not play any more ODIs before the Champions Trophy in June, where Kohli will hope to defend the title, and Anil Kumble has stated that experimentation is not the way to go here.

Fifth-ranked England, under the returning Eoin Morgan, will back themselves to upset the home team because of their limited-overs form since the 2015 World Cup, which spans 19 wins in 31 completed ODIs. Morgan will not look at the fact that England's last ODI series win in India was more than 30 years ago, instead putting faith in his pool of players, many of whom helped the team to the final of last year's ICC World Twenty20 here in India.

On a side note, there will be plenty of attention on Dhoni, now playing without the captaincy pressure for the first time since 2007, and the returning Yuvraj Singh who has not played an ODI for over three years. Will Dhoni wield his bat freely, sending the home fans into a tizzy? Can he team up with Yuvraj and forge a partnership like the pair did so often in ODIs before?

Kumble, India's coach, confirmed that Ajinkya Rahane will be used as an opener in the series in the absence of Rohit Sharma. That leaves the management to pick one of Shikhar Dhawan or KL Rahul, who are both returning to the ODI team from injuries, as Rahane's partner. Dhawan was sluggish in the warm-up loss to the England XI in Mumbai, needing 84 balls for his 63. Rahul has Test and first-class form on his side, and when you consider that he was Man of the Match and Man of the Series in his previous ODI series - his debut one - then he appears the likelier choice.

In the middle order, Yuvraj looks set for his first ODI since December 2013 having cracked a fifty for India A this week, which leaves one of Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav - who played India's last ODI series - fighting for one spot. The inclusion of Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin, who were both rested for the New Zealand series in October, makes Amit Mishra's place uncertain even though he took five wickets in his last ODI. Hardik Pandya, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah are straightforward picks.


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