First of all, let me apologize for not writing after the second ODI. With only 3 days gap between matches, it becomes difficult to write after every match. If I let go on the first day and get to be a little busy on the next, we are already close to the start of the next ODI.
Anyway, it was very satisfying to see India beat England comprehensively for 3 matches in a row and seal the series with 2 games to play. Like Dhoni has said, I am not a big fan of calling this a 'revenge victory' over England. For me, it was more about the guys getting their confidence back before the tough challenge of facing Australia in Australia and trying to beat them there. With 5 ODIs scheduled against a weak West Indies side in November, I am sure there will be no shortage of confidence in the boys by the time they take off for Australia.
Coming back to the second and third ODIs, one aspect that has been particularly satisfying for me is that, it is not as if all matches followed the same pattern and India won by doing the same things each time. The first match was won defending, the second was a perfect lesson in the art of chasing, while the third one was the toughest where they chased down a huge total and had to endure fall of wickets and a tight finish to get over the line. As I said in my previous post, it looks like the one week rest has done Dhoni a lot of good and he looks fresh and hungry again. But the selectors must not get carried away by this and should not play him in all the remaining 7 ODIs and 1 T20 before the Australia tour. I was looking at the schedules and they are very tight. We finish the England T20 on 29th and the first test against WI starts on 6th November, hardly a 1-week gap between matches. The ODI leg of the WI series finishes on December 11th, with the first test against Australia starting on Boxing Day - December 26th - just 2 weeks after the last ODI against WI. So the board should be careful and manage the players properly, otherwise we will see a very tired lot of cricketers on the tough tour of Australia and that would be playing into their hands.
I hope the selectors rest Dhoni, Gambhir and others who play all formats, for the last 2 or 3 ODIs against WI. Anyway, coming back to the England ODIs, like I mentioned in my previous post, having Jadeja at number 7 is proving to be a huge bonus for India these days. He seems to have worked on his batting a lot, especially his strike rate. I am sure everyone remembers how he used to come in and consume a lot of deliveries and even cost us a few games with his slow batting. But thanks to T20, he has improved a lot in his strike rate and is now always looking to attack and score quick runs. He is providing us the boost that was expected from Yusuf, which we never got on a consistent basis. In the third ODI, even though we were chasing a huge score and even during the wobble in the middle when we lost a few wickets, I never felt the tension and never thought we would lose. Somehow, having seen all those matches when India chased down huge totals effortlessly, has made me very confident of this team when it comes to Indian conditions.
The one good thing I keep thinking about and feeling happy about is, this is a virtually second string team that we are playing with and for us to perform so creditably and beat a good side like England is great. Look at the players we are missing from the ODI squad - Sachin, Veeru, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Munaf, Rohit Sharma. When these guys come back, India will have a very strong ODI team and I hope we take the strongest possible team to Australia for the tests and ODIs.
Another plus point from the 3 ODI victories is the speed that Umesh Yadav generated. It was great to see him hit the upper 130s and the 140s regularly. Too bad that he is injured for the last 2 ODIs, but it is a golden opportunity to try out Varun Aaron who is reputed to be even quicker than Yadav. I did not like that they chose to replace Umesh with Mithun, but hopefully he will not get a chance to play and that they will play Aaron instead. In my mind, a complete Indian attack will be - 2 swing/seam bowlers (preferably 1 right-arm and 1 left-arm), 1 quick bowler (like Yadav or Aaron) and 2 good, different-from-each-other spinners (one of whom should be a good bat as well). This is a very good attack to have and should make our bowling perform much better than it has till now.
For the next 2 ODIs, I would also like to see Rahul Sharma play instead of Ashwin or Jadeja. Maybe Ashwin can be rested since he is a proven performer and we need him fresh for the WI ODIs and the Australia tour. Jadeja is doing well in his comeback, so it makes sense to let him milk his form and confidence while it lasts. I would also give Manoj Tiwary a chance instead of maybe Virat, who has been playing non-stop since the start of the ODI series in England.
One other good thing I noticed is how Dhoni has used the slow medium bowling of Virat on Indian pitches. Virat has filled the void to an extent that was created by the absence of Yuvi in the bowling department. He should be used more in Indian conditions and encouraged to develop some more variety so that he will be useful for a couple of overs even in overseas conditions.
Lets enjoy the remaining 2 ODIs and hope that it is a clean sweep by India. I noticed that none of you commented on my previous post. Lets hear it from you guys. There is a lot of cricket to be played ahead and it will be nice to see more people commenting on my posts and sharing your thoughts.
I will write again after the last 2 ODIs are completed, so stay tuned.