Rahul Dravid and his boys will be looking to put one-up on the board in the seven-match series when they play the second ODI at Bristol. Batting was a huge let down for the Indians in the first ODI at Southampton. They will be up against a side that is brimming with confidence. Hosts England had lost just two wickets in the Southampton game and their bowling looked more than penetrative with Freddie Flintoff keeping the Indians on the backfoot. India would require a change of strategy for today’s game to counter a resurgent English side.
A lot of stuff as such about how to win the match at Bristol, but India is facing a practical problem with some of its key players down with flu. India’s three pacers – Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and RP Singh along with Tendulkar and Yuvraj have been unwell and had missed the practice session. Fortunately enough the schedule allow two full days of rest between each One Dayer. The County Ground in Bristol happens to be a lucky venue for Sachin Tendulkar. The Master had scored two tons at this ground – the first one being a hugely emotional one as he looked up the skies and muttered a few words within himself perhaps to say that it was dedicated for his father. That century came against Kenya in the 1999 World Cup. The second one came against Sri Lanka during the NatWest Series. Tendulkar will need to play a long innings as India needs to tackle the fiery Freddie factor.
The first One Dayer exposed the Indian batting’s weakness against the short deliveries. Flintoff walked away with figures of 1 for 12 in 7 overs when the chase was on for a 289 score. A couple of school boyish mistakes led by Ganguly at the top had shown that the running between the wickets is another negative in this side. The bowlers had a mixed bag, they had done well to restrict England down to 288 on a perfect batting strip but at the same time it wasn’t threatening enough to take wickets. That’s an important factor as by taking wickets, a batting side can be pegged back just like how James Anderson’s double blow of Tendulkar and Yuve was. The Indian new ball attack of Zaheer and Agarkar was a touch short during the start of the English innings which was under overcast conditions. The three pacers by bowling slightly short allowed the English batsmen to get their eye in. There is a huge difference between the short deliveries bowled by an Indian pacer and some one like Freddie Flintoff who bends his back to get the ball to kick up.
There could be just the one change in the Indian line-up if all the players are available at full fitness. Gautam Gambhir could make way for Robin Uthappa. Gambhir for some reason has been getting good scores against weak sides but when it has come against good pace attack, he has more often than not gave it away playing atrocious shots. The Indians might even think of playing Ramesh Powar instead of one batsman and that is Gambhir. There is lot of talk around to get Munaf into the side. But people who had watched the warm-up match at Northampton would agree that Munaf isn’t upto the mark for competitive cricket. Munaf’s bowling lacked energy; he just looked pedestrian so much so that one of the commentators said that Dhoni could well stand upto the stumps for his bowling! To add up more to that, Munaf is not having a proper throwing arm, he is doing the underarm throws from the outfield. Now this could well be a selection blunder in going for Munaf rather than an always charged-up Sreesanth. But one thing is sure that Munaf will play a role in this long series as they aren’t many pace options for the tourists.
The problems seem to be at India’s end as England is building up into a nice ODI team. Alastair Cook did his job well the other day which was to play the sheet anchor’s role. Bell batted freely to help the momentum. The likes of Collingwood, Flintoff and Bopara were not required to play any role with the bat. As long as England keeps playing like this, they are going to be a consistently tough side to beat. The same line-up at Southampton could be retained even if Ryan Sidebottom gets fit. The Indians will have plenty of different things to do to beat England at Bristol in today’s day nighter; one of them would be a counter attack by the opening batsmen for sure!