The trophy-laden MS Dhoni era has come to an end… at the start of a new year. Dhoni was India’s most successful captain in every format.
Along with Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy, Indian Cricket made giant strides under Dhoni’s captaincy: under Ganguly, India started winning Test matches away from home—the examples being the Headingley Test in August 2002 and the Adelaide Test in December 2003—but in ODI competitions, the Men in Blue competed well and consistently reached the finals of triangular and multi-nation tournaments. However, Ganguly’s team did not clinch many trophies. In other words, Dada’s brigade ‘choked’ in a lot of the tournament finals, with the 2000 ICC KnockOut Tournament and the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup being prime examples of their inability to raise their game on the finals day.
Under Dhoni, the face of Indian Cricket changed for the good, again, just as it did at the start of the 21st century. The most significant difference between Dhoni and Ganguly’s eras was, getting to the finals of ODI competitions started becoming a formality and in the finals, Dhoni’s devils did not buckle under pressure; India were no longer just competing, but they started winning trophies and did so consistently too. Dhoni remains India’s most successful captain in the Test format as well, but he and his team did extremely well in the shorter formats of the game. In simple terms, Indian Cricket progressed significantly under Dhoni’s captaincy.
The Virat Kohli Era and Aspects to Watch Out for in the India v England 2017 ODI Series
Virat Kohli’s era will begin in earnest this Sunday (January 15th), when India take on England at the MCA Stadium in Pune and the upcoming phase promises to be an exciting one for the Indian fans.
Under Kohli, you can expect to see India playing front-foot cricket and trying to take matches by the scruff of the neck. I say so because under Dhoni, the Men in Blue tended to be tactical, wherein Dhoni himself preferred playing the waiting game and inducing errors from the opponents. This tactic worked sometimes, but the percentage of failure was quite high as well. Kohli, though, will want his team to stamp their authority on proceedings and bulldoze opponents, as the Kohli-led Indian Test side has, at home, over the last 18 months, albeit in favourable conditions and against less-experienced touring sides.
The new Indian skipper, before he can mould the limited-overs sides into playing an imperious brand of cricket, has a little bit of team rebuilding to do, not because he’s taking over from Dhoni in ODIs and T20Is too, but primarily because India’s ODI side genuinely needs rebuilding.
India’s batting line-up, which has been their strongest suit over the years, is no longer reliable and that is even if you have Rohit Sharma, who is originally missing from the Indian squad for the upcoming England ODI series due to a right quadriceps injury, as part of your XI. Dhoni in recent times hasn’t been able to finish games off for India; Ajinkya Rahane has yet to establish himself in the Indian one-day side and Suresh Raina, who was a vital cog in the Indian ODI batting line-up, has been part of and played in just two of India’s six ODI assignments since the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, albeit he was picked in the Indian squad for the five-ODI series against New Zealand last year and had to miss the same due to a viral fever.
Unfortunately for Kohli, he does not have time, with the ODI series against England being India’s final rehearsal before the eighth edition of the ICC Champions Trophy. The ODI series against New Zealand proved that India’s ODI batting line-up relied quite heavily on Kohli, who played a huge part in the hosts winning the first and third ODIs of the series, in Dharamsala and Mohali respectively, by scoring 85* and 154*. When Kohli failed, his 45 in Ranchi, for instance, was poor by his standards, India failed to chase down 243 and 261 in the second and fourth ODIs of the series.
So, one of the aspects to watch out for is how the Indian batting line-up fares over the course of the three-ODI series against England.
Eoin Morgan’s England have proved to be a different animal in the ODIs since they exited the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 at the group stage and they are expected to give India a run for their money, at the very least. You are no longer talking about the Alastair Cooks and Ian Bells, who featured in England’s limited-overs sides during their 2012-13 tour of India, rendering solidity and anchoring the English innings.
Rather, England now have the kind of batsmen—the likes of Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, and Morgan himself—who will bat aggressively and fearlessly in any given match situation. And in Indian conditions and against Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who tormented England in the five-Test series, the approach of the English batsmen will be one to keep an eye out for.
What is also conspicuous from the probable English batting line-up is that Buttler, Morgan, Hales, and Billings are quite familiar with Indian conditions, having played in one or more IPL seasons.
Probable England playing XI for the ODIs against India:
Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (WK), Eoin Morgan (C), Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, Liam Dawson, and Liam Plunkett.
So, presuming England play a lot better than New Zealand did, can the hosts, led by a different captain, raise their game and string together back-to-back home ODI series wins? Mind you, England haven’t won an ODI series in India since 1984-85, so they too have a psychological battle to overcome, though you can be rest assured that this bunch of players will feel confident of taking on and beating an Indian side who have won just three of their six ODI assignments since the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, with two of those series wins coming against Zimbabwe.
This is another one of the aspects to watch out for in the 2017 India v England ODI series.
Finally, what should be MS Dhoni’s ODI batting position against England, under Kohli and as non-captain?
Dhoni relinquished limited-overs captaincy last Thursday and since then, the universal expectations are that the Ranchi batsman will bat higher up the order and bat freely. In Tuesday’s warm-up game against England XI, Dhoni batted at No. 5, but more importantly, made a whirlwind 40-ball 68, the kind of innings which bodes well for the former Indian skipper and India, going into the series against England.
Now, come Sunday, we might well see a resurgent Dhoni turn up at the home of his IPL team, Pune Warriors, and show every one of his detractors that he still hasn’t lost the ability to play the big shots and find the boundary with relative ease. But of late, Dhoni hasn’t played a defining innings to tell us that he remains a feared limited-overs batsman. Batting at No. 4, he played a good knock of 80 in the third ODI against New Zealand and put India on the road to victory, but that innings only had slight traces of a typical Dhoni innings and was not really convincing.
Dhoni, in the last 18 months, has become a batsman who struggles to find the boundaries when he and his team need them and for whom, garnering singles and twos is proving to be quite difficult as well. Which is why No. 4 will be an ideal position for him, as he will likely have time to build his own innings and anchor the Indian innings.
Going into the ODI series against England, India are not a settled side and now they also have a new captain who has to get used to the tough job of captaining the side and batting at No. 3. England, on the other hand, have reasons to feel confident of registering their first ODI series win in India in 32 years: they play a brand of ODI cricket which, in my opinion, gives them the edge over their opponents this time around. The three-ODI series between India and England should be great to watch, but I have England as the favourites at the start.