The new year brought along a change in leadership for the Indian cricket team. M.S Dhoni, India’s most successful skipper pulled the plug on his captaincy stint which elevated his heir, Virat Kohli to the helm. Kohli had already tasted quite a lot of success leading the test team but limited overs cricket poses an entirely different set of challenges. The three ODIs against England were India’s only fixtures in this format ahead of the Champions Trophy in June and hence it was pivotal to make these games count. Going into the third and final game, India have not only sealed the series but have also ticked a lot of boxes.
The first match, played in Pune witnessed a stunning chase from the Indians. After Roy, Root and Stokes had powered England to a mammoth 350, the Barmy Army had the Men in Blue stuttering at 63-4. This is when the local lad, Kedar Jadhav, joined his skipper in the middle and the two of them struck scintillating centuries to help India win by 3 wickets. The second game at Cuttack saw the Indian top order struggle again. Then came a heartwarming partnership between two stalwarts of Indian cricket. Yuvraj Singh scored a magnificent 150, his first ODI century in nearly 6 years while Dhoni bludgeoned a stunning 134 which lifted India to an enormous 381. In reply, the under fire English skipper, Eoin Morgan struck a superlative century but the asking rate was just too much as his team fell short by 15 runs.
Though the series is sealed, there will definitely be no letup in intensity from Virat’s men. As he stated earlier, they will be treating every game as a knock out and will look to whitewash the Englishmen. Barring the openers, the rest of the batting is more or less set for the Champions Trophy. Kohli, Yuvi, Dhoni and Jadhav will look to continue their fine run. Eden Gardens will present one last opportunity for Shikhar Dhawan to seal his spot. While Rohit Sharma is expected to open once he returns from injury, the other slot has 3 potential takers in Dhawan, Rahul and Rahane. The management might want to give Rahane a chance along with Dhawan in Kolkata. On the bowling side, Bhuvi, Ashwin and Jaddu bowled admirably in Cuttack and will once again be expected to deliver the goods. Pandya was erratic in the last game but will be looking to bounce back in the next one which is expected to offer more to the seamers. His role as an allrounder who can clock 140 kph augurs well for India ahead of 8 team extravaganza in England in June. The visitors on the other hand have not yet won a game on this tour and the desperation will be mounting. They have done well in both the games this year but have let India off the hook at key instances. Morgan will want to avoid a whitewash and get some momentum going ahead of the 3 match T20 series.