Lucknow, Oct 28: When the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup schedule was announced in June, one would have looked at October 29 and marked the India-England clash at the BRSABV Ekana Cricket Stadium on their calendar as a marquee clash – the tournament hosts’ up against the defending champions.
Cut to now and India have very much lived up to the pre-tournament billing of being the hot favourites – winning five out of five matches and looking at a top-two finish in the points table. But the script hasn’t panned out in the way one had it in mind for England, with the reigning champions looking listless in losing four out of five matches and staring at an early exit from the competition.
After unwinding in the cool climes of Dharamshala post a four-wicket triumph over New Zealand at the HPCA Stadium last week, India enter Sunday’s clash by sweating it out in Lucknow for the last two days, with an eye to continue their winning momentum.
Their batters, starting from captain Rohit Sharma to Virat Kohli and wicketkeeper KL Rahul, have been in great form and have stood up to do the job for the team. Jasprit Bumrah has been at his lethal best while spearheading the fast-bowling attack, along with Mohammed Shami leaving an immediate impact with a superb five-wicket haul against New Zealand.
Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav have been highly effective in spin bowling department. With Hardik Pandya still unavailable due to a left ankle injury, India may field a playing eleven similar to the one it fielded in Dharamshala. The question of team balance in Hardik’s absence is what the Indian think-tank will be pondering upon in their quest to continue being the only unbeaten side in the tournament.
Hardik’s absence in Dharamshala meant India had to fill the void left by him by bringing in Suryakumar Yadav and Mohammed Shami, with Shardul Thakur excluded. If the pitch in Lucknow offers help to spinners, then Ravichandran Ashwin comes into the picture, though it will be interesting to see if India will be fine with fielding only two fast-bowling options.
Apart from this, India also need to be wary about the law of averages catching up with them in the second half of their league stage, with Sri Lanka, South Africa and Netherlands awaiting them after meeting with England in Lucknow. In the victorious 2011 World Cup campaign, India were defeated by South Africa in the second half of their league stage, after being held to a tie by England.
On the other hand, many were awaiting a party of big scores and regular strikes from a star-studded England in the ODI World Cup party. But losses to Afghanistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka, after a tournament opener defeat to New Zealand, has left their campaign in tatters.
Under Eoin Morgan, England rose to become the trend-setters of ODI cricket, making an all-out attacking approach with the bat and ball fashionable as the world saw them win the World Cup in a dramatic finale at Lord’s in 2019.
A lot was expected from them under Jos Buttler’s leadership in 2023, but a confused and zero clarity approach has meant England’s performances in the tournament have given fans a major throwback to their pre-2019 World Cup era run.
One aspect which stands out in their campaign has been the constant chopping and changing, with England using all of their squad members in four games while oscillating between playing specialists and all-rounders in the playing eleven.
England made one change from their loss to New Zealand for their win over Bangladesh. It became three changes to the playing eleven from second to third game, which saw them losing to Afghanistan.
In panic, England made three more changes to their clash against South Africa, which ended in a heavy 229-run loss. Another three changes were made in their game against Sri Lanka, including Reece Topley ruled out due to fracture, as England crashed to a humbling eight-wicket defeat.
Such has been their wretched luck that England prayed for a Ben Stokes miracle to rescue their troubled campaign against Sri Lanka. It did look like Stokes would do that, but once he was out for 43, England couldn’t prevent another heavy defeat coming their way.
Their decision-making has been surprising too: bowling first against Afghanistan in New Delhi despite knowing the opposition has a quality spin bowling line-up and repeating the same decision against a rampant South Africa batting order in the scorching Mumbai heat was baffling.
The top-order hasn’t fired, while the middle-order, including captain Jos Buttler, haven’t been amongst the runs. The bowlers haven’t been on the mark as a collective unit. England under Morgan had the ability to bounce back after setbacks – a quality which will be tested on Sunday as Buttler & Co take the field against the Indian team leaving no stone unturned to avoid a banana peel situation amidst pocketing convincing wins.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav.
England: Jos Buttler (captain & wicket-keeper), Moeen Ali, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes, Brydon Carse, David Willey, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes. (IANS)