After 2 ODI matches, England lead 1-0. It could have been 1-1 if rain had not played spoilsport in the first game. The second one India lost due to lack of teeth in the bowling department. One positive note about the 2 ODIs so far is, the batsmen have improved and are setting good, competitive totals. Though I am still getting the feeling that they are not performing to full potential and we are giving wickets to England bowlers pretty easily. There is virtually no contribution from numbers 8 to 11 which is putting additional pressure on the top 7 batsmen, particularly Raina and Dhoni as they come at 6 and 7 and must be having it in the back of their head that if they go early, India will fold pretty quickly. In spite of that, it is nice to see Raina back to the muscleman mode that he displays only in limited overs matches.
Another positive and pleasing thing to see is the way Parthiv and Rahane are batting at the top of the order. Parthiv is batting quite well at the moment and is looking to take the attack to the England bowlers which, as I have been saying all tour, is the way to handle them and give them stuff to think about. Rahane has played 3 eye-catching knocks so far and it is nice to see him come good. He looks to be someone to definitely keep in the radar for the future in all formats. His shots, though played in the air at times, have an aesthetic look to them and dont look ugly at all, while being very effective. He appears to know where his field is and looks to attack at every opportunity, which is nice to see. I am sure he does not play in this manner in the longer format and has adopted this approach only for the shorter format. Rahul is also looking to hit more in the air and in the gaps, possibly a positive influence of the IPL on his batting.
It is the bowling which worries me. There is a sameness to the attack as far as speed is concerned with all the pacers operating in the 120-130 kmph range and looking to do the similar things in their bowling, like relying on impeccable length and line and a little wobble to keep the batsmen quiet and thereby, buy wickets. I think this is where someone like Varun Aaron needs to be brought in for the extra speed he provides. We are already down 1 game with only 3 more to come, so it would not hurt at all to try Aaron in the next game and see what he can provide. The England batsmen were always looking to attack the pacers and had no reservations about going down the track and hitting across the line. So it would be nice if Aaron can come in and bowl a few bouncers that whiz past the heads of the England batsmen. Also the lack of a proper fifth bowler is killing us. Lets see what Ravindra Jadeja can provide here. I am not a fan of Jadeja, but if he can contain the batsmen a bit and create some pressure with his bowling and in the field, I will forgive him even if he does not score too many or if he scores slowly as he has done in the past.
Lets hope for a full game in the third and remaining ODIs. I still believe this Indian team can challenge the England team over a full match of 100 overs. Before I end, I want to make a mention of Dhoni's captaincy which has really fallen apart in this tour. Some of his decisions on the field and in the team selection are very baffling to me, like the choice of the 3 pacers and the reluctance to use Ashwin earlier in the previous match. Granted that Ashwin's first over went for 16 runs, but he did bowl 2-3 dot balls even in that over. Dhoni used Kohli for a couple of overs and even tried Raina before Ashwin was brought back. When he came back, he took 2 wickets and gave only 27 from his next 4 overs. I believe he should have come back sooner and could have made a difference. Such simple mistakes are what I am seeing in this Dhoni and that worries me. I think it is time for Dhoni to be forced into a break and some thought needs to be given to his place in the test team. If he has to play the Champions League this month (and I suspect he does, because he is the main box office draw for CSK), then he should not play the ODI series against England that follows. Lets hope the BCCI folks show some sense and force Dhoni to take significant time away from the game.
Now lets see what you guys think. Do you believe India can still win this series or even one game ? Do you agree that the bowling needs to be changed a bit and that Dhoni needs to get away from cricket ? My next post will be after the third ODI, so stay tuned.