Cushioned between a well-fought five-match T20I series and the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a somewhat ill-timed three-match One-day International tournament that India and England have to get over with.
The format has no relative significance at this moment, considering all ICC tournaments between now and the next year are T20Is, with the 50-over World Cup event scheduled only in 2023.
Nonetheless, it’s got to be done away with and the ground where both teams will have to do those honours is the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium, on the outskirts of Pune.
Indian minds, largely speaking, are more occupied by the thought of playing the World Test Championship final in June, the tour of England followed by the upcoming T20 World Cup in October and November. The English minds meanwhile are already sailing past the seas Down Under, contemplating the Ashes. Everything else already seems a blur in their case.
Given the scenarios, these One-dayers are merely a formality that both sides will be looking to get over with at the earliest. As far as the men’s World Cup Super League 2020-23 rankings are concerned, India languish at the 10th spot in the table by virtue of having played only three ODIs (in Australia) between 2020 and now, winning one and losing two. Being the hosts, India will automatically qualify for the 2023 World Cup, regardless of where they end up on the table.
Getting rolled in Pune is a belter of a pitch under conditions that are generally hot, catering to an extremely fast outfield, at a ground that’s already been rid of spectators, and at a venue that has hosted four ODIs in the last seven-and-half-years. India has won two out of those four, both batting second, the first of which was the mighty 356-run chase against England in 2017.
Although, on the eve of the game, passing showers across Pune city had cooled down the weather a bit. Post that run-glut, India and England have faced each other five more times in the format and Virat Kohli‘s team has won just one of those, last losing to the Englishmen in their backyard at the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Both teams have undergone a more-or-less 50% transition since and newer faces have become part of the unit in recent times. All eyes will be on how the impressive Shardul Thakur – who has been bowling those exceptional slower deliveries – and the experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar deliver against the England top order of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Butler. Also on watch will be Yuzvendra Chahal, and how he bowls to the middle-order of Stokes and Morgan. How India’s top batsmen tackle Mark Wood and Sam Curran may decide the eventual outcome.
India have T Natarajan, the Tamil Nadu bowler who debuted in Australia, in the side along with Karnataka’s 25-year-old Prasidh Krishna, who could get to debut in one of these three games. There’s quite a bit of rotation.