England go into the ODI series with India as favourites following their 3-1 triumph in the Test series, but Duncan Fletcher’s side have the ability to turn their tour around.
With India in apparent disarray off the field, newly-installed coach Ravi Shastri has an opportunity to halt their losing streak ahead of the first game on Monday.
Shastri may also be able to stake his claim for the role of head coach, currently being held by an under-fire Fletcher, who will certainly not be enjoying his return to England so far.
Nonetheless, India have a beacon of hope in the packed schedules of many of their English counterparts. Lancashire’s James Anderson, Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan, as well as Birmingham's Ian Bell and Chris Woakes must all travel to Bristol after playing in the final of the T20 Blast on Saturday.
Woakes saw the Bears over the line to victory, but India could gain an advantage from their days of rest from competitive cricket.
In contrast to England’s stars, the Men in Blue have been playing in a relatively insignificant tour game against Middlesex, which they won by 95 runs.
Indeed, the visitors will also be given some respite from the relentless attacks of Stuart Broad, who is to undergo surgery for tendonitis in his right knee.
Barring Broad’s inevitable absence, many will have been surprised by the strength of England’s squad, with captain Alistair Cook retaining his place, alongside Gary Ballance, Bell, and Moeen Ali. The latter will face competition from James Tredwell, and since Moeen has caused the Indians such problems all summer, it will be interesting to see how they cope with the two spinners, should they both play.
That indicates Peter Moores is taking nothing for granted, with India looking a more threatening ODI outfit. Virat Kohli has an ODI average of 66 over the last year, almost twice his figures in the longer form of the game.
Preparing for 2015
As for the Three Lions, all eyes will be on Alex Hales, first and foremost, after another excellent season with Notts, and a recent ton for the England Lions.
For both sides, the ODIs represent, if nothing else, a test of their preparations for next year’s ICC World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. They will also be a chance to put to bed much of the bad blood between the two sides that developed over the Test series.
India have not won an ODI series in England for almost a quarter of a century, but the necessity of salvaging their tour will certainly spur them on.
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