England will look to improve on their dismal one-day record in India when they clash with the injury-ravaged world champions in a five-match series starting on Friday.
England have beaten India just once in their last 10 one-day internationals on Indian soil, which included a thrilling tie during the World Cup in Bangalore in March.
Alastair Cook’s side will be buoyant after a dominant home season when they beat India 4-0 in the Test series to take over as the world’s number one team, and also won the one-dayers 3-0.
Cook, however, refused to take victory for granted against a depleted home team missing key players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh due to injury or poor form.
“I don’t see any relation between what happened in England and what’s going to happen out here,” Cook said ahead of the first one-dayer at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.
“India are historically very strong at home, and we have an extremely tough challenge on our hands. It’s a great opportunity for an England side to play the world champions in their back yard.”
England, who arrived in India on October 4 to acclimatise to local conditions, warmed up for the series by winning both practice matches against Hyderabad teams.
On Tuesday, they routed the local side by 253 runs after Jonny Bairstow smashed an unbeaten 104 off 53 balls and uncapped leg-spinner Scott Borthwick picked up five wickets.
The new-look Indian team has just four survivors — skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina — from the side that beat Sri Lanka in the World Cup final in Mumbai on April 2.
Tendulkar, Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel are recovering from injuries, while Harbhajan and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth were dropped due to poor form.
India’s 15-man squad for the first two one-dayers includes three players — leg-spinner Rahul Sharma (24) left-arm seamer Sreenath Aravind (27) and fast bowler Varun Aaron (21) — who have yet to play international cricket.
Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Sharma are the three spin options, while Praveen Kumar will lead a new-ball attack that also includes Umesh Yadav and Vinay Kumar.
Doing well at home
Kevin Pietersen returns for England after being omitted for the one-dayers against India at home, but the tourists are without pace spearheads James Anderson who is being rested, and Stuart Broad who is injured.
Tim Bresnan, Jade Dernbach and Steven Finn will head the tourists’ pace attack, which also includes 22-year-old uncapped Surrey bowler Stuart Meaker.
Despite injuries to star players and the humiliating defeats on English soil, India appeared unfazed.
“England played very well in England and deserved to win, but we will do well at home,” said middle-order batsman Raina.
The remaining four matches after the Hyderabad opener will be played in New Delhi on October 17, Mohali on October 20, Mumbai on October 23 and Kolkata on October 25.
England will round off the tour with a Twenty20 game in Kolkata on October 29. — AFP