Indias last ODI outing in England came on the back of a disastrous Test series where they had been drubbed 4-0 to lose their No 1 ranking in Tests. M S Dhoni and his men did on better in the ODI series,going winless but there were a few positives to emerge from the five matches. One of these was Ravichandran Ashwins performance throughout the series.
Not only did the off-spinner finish with most number of wickets six at 25.16 he also displayed great control in terms of keeping the hosts under check. As Team India head out for the Champions Trophy,Ashwin is only among seven players still around from that squad.
In the two years since,ODI cricket too has witnessed a number of changes with new rules having come into place. As Dhoni mentioned during the pre-departure press-conference on Tuesday,his teams biggest challenge this time around will be adjusting to the new mandates,especially the one regarding the number of fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle.
We will have to adjust to the new rule of five fielders being inside (the circle),the lengths the bowlers need to bowl,how quickly they adapt to the wicket and which areas to bowl, he said.
Dhonis words will ring true especially in terms of his spinners,Ashwin,Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra. Those five ODIs where Ashwin did well were played at the back-end of the English summer,where the pitches had significantly more on offer for spin. This time around,Ashwin,Jadeja and Mishra will not have much turn to play with,except probably at Cardiff,known for its slow-turners. The spinners will have to change their approach and the captain too will have to be judicious in the fields he sets for them.
For Jadeja,with only four allowed in the deep,Dhoni might be tempted to employ a kind of field set by Arjuna Ranatunga for Sanath Jayasuriya a left-armer in the same mould as Jadeja in the 1990s. By having three men back on the leg-side and having long-off back,the batsmen will be forced to hit with the turn,that Jadeja will not provide,and have pack the off-side with four fielders manning the inner-circle.
For Ashwin,Dhoni could experiment more,having in-and-out fields on both sides of the wicket,and depend on his premier spinner to hold a tight line and length. Last time around,the offie relied heavily on the carrom ball to get wickets. But like hes shown in the home season,he can be expected to keep the opposition batsmen in check without overdoing the variations.
In the bigger grounds like Edgbaston and The Oval,the boundary riders will be crucial,as theyll have to cut off the angles and not only save the boundaries but also limit the number of twos and threes.
Indias pace attack,though inexperienced,will benefit a lot from having a new ball at either end a rule almost designed for England. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Irfan Pathan,both seasoned exponents of swing bowling,will in fact be looking forward to bowling in those conditions. Kumar in particular will have the option of sticking to his primary strength of pitching the ball on a good length and swinging it both ways.
Itll also be a valuable aid for Ishant Sharma,who has otherwise struggled in the shorter format. The two balls should remain quite fresh for a major part of the 50 overs,ensuring that Indias pacers will remain in the game longer.
The new opening combination though could be a worry in the build-up to the tournament,with both Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan not known for displaying much discretion at the crease. Its not to say that they arent equipped to overcome the challenges in England. But fresh from the IPL,they will have to quickly get rid of the tendency of trying to score off every ball in the T20 format. Pacemen are also now allowed the luxury of bowling two bouncers in an over,and Indias batting line-up,Suresh Raina in particular,should expect to be peppered with short-pitched bowling.
Play Tests or lose status,says ICC cricket committee
The ICCs Cricket Committee,chaired by Anil Kumble and including members such as ICC chief executive Dave Richardson,Kumar Sangakkara,Ravi Shastri,Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and Clare Connor,concluded their two-day meeting at Lords on Wednesday. The committee made several recommendations to the ICCs Chief Executives Committee and the ICC Board. Here are some of the key points:
Noting examples of Test matches being postponed to make room for other formats,the committee recommended that all Test-playing members play a minimum number of Tests over a four-year period to maintain Test status. They also suggested the staging of a Test play-off event as the climax to a qualification period of bilateral FTP matches,with ICC Test rankings determining the qualifiers.
Two new balls?
The committee reviewed impact of recent ODI rule changes,noted concerns regarding impact of using two new balls. While recognising the need to settle on playing conditions well before 2015 World Cup,the committee decided to delay any decision to later in the year,with more time needed to gather data and gauge the full impact of rule changes.
The Committee received a report from the MCC on the switch hit,which included feedback from players and umpires,and accepted an MCC recommendation that the shot should remain legitimate,while giving the bowling side leeway while ruling on wides.