The conditions for the One-Day Internationals (ODI) were as they prevailed for most of the five-Test cricket series against India — typically English. Both sides retained the core of their teams and beefed up by bringing in limited-overs specialists Suresh Raina and Eoin Morgan, respectively.
Not many would have wagered on India scoring 300-plus at Cardiff Wednesday after the way they started the innings in cloudy overhead conditions after losing the toss and battling for a decent score till the 30th over when Rohit Sharma’s patient vigil ended with India managing a shade over four runs an over.
From there on to push the rate to six at close to nine an over for 20 overs is amazing — with Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni putting on 144 runs at eight an over in their fifth-wicket stand of 16 overs. Still, not many would have written off England, more so after a 50-plus opening partnership — and then to lose by a whopping margin.
It was refreshing to watch Raina bat after the timid approach by some of his better-known colleagues in Tests while his captain continued his form with the bat. When the two batted, the pitch suddenly looked benign, not the zipping swinging one when Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan went in to open the innings.
A hundred in any game has its value and in this game its worth could only be weighed in gold because Raina’s 75-ball effort steered his team to victory.
A loss in the first match of the series — the first game getting washed out at Bristol — would have further demoralised the side which went through convulsions both on-and-off the field in the last couple of months.
One of those who came in for closer scrutiny as a player as well as person during the Test series is Ravindra Jadeja. After all that he has done or not done in Tests, he is Sir Ravindra again, looking good as a 10-over spinner even if there is some grouse at the way he was bowled in the five Tests.
Captains and fast bowlers around the world have been thinking of Raina as a bunny for short-pitched bowling. At least at Cardiff he appeared to have sorted the bowlers out instead of the other way round. He found ways to milk the short ball for runs, ducked at some with conviction and he once even carted it over fine-leg for a six.
Statisticians quickly ticked a new column in Raina’s batting by pointing out that this was his first hundred outside the subcontinent. This piece of information must gladden both him and his well-wishers. As a useful back-up bowler in certain conditions and situations, he could develop into a poor man’s Michael Bevan!
Now there will be a chorus for his recall to the Test side since he has handled the short ball better than his teammates did in Tests! Of course, you can’t bat in ODIs like you do in Tests and vice-versa. The close-in cordon of fielders has something to do with it.
Scoring at 77.98 per 100 balls, England captain Alistair Cook is not considered an ideal ODI batsman and in his own word his “so-called” friend, former teammate Graeme Swann, now a commentator, wants him replaced for the World Cup in Australia-New Zealand six months away.
Cook is angry and disappointed with Swann.
Dhoni has no such critics and fears about his batting, his problems stem from his captaincy bloopers and his keeping. In any case, Dhoni is seen as a manipulative master in the shorter formats and he will have to be allowed to defend the World Cup India won under his captaincy four years ago in Mumbai. As of now, both the boards are standing by their respective captains.
A word of caution here: There are still three more games to be played and plenty more before the World Cup to firm up the squad — some important matches in the tri-series Down Under this winter with England being the other team. There is little scope for fiddling with the batting but the bowling certainly needs to be tightened a bit even after the 133-run win at Cardiff.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and his views are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)