Calcutta/Mohali: India will take the field on Wednesday with the aim of securing the series… A possibility which is a welcome change considering the disappointments of the recent past and beyond.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni must be much relieved. The series had started with a defeat in Rajkot, but much has changed since that match. Kochi and Ranchi have helped India go 2-1 up in the five-match series and so a win in Mohali would give the hosts a series victory.
Virat Kohli says that after losing the first match, they treat every match as the last match. But even without that thought, the Indians will be pretty desperate to the Mohali game. After so many failures, the world champions are finally playing good cricket. They wouldn't like to give away that practice so easily.
Interestingly, the victory in Ranchi had earned the Indians the No.1 spot among teams in ODIs, an achievement which almost went unnoticed. With performances going from poor to poorer, no one really cared to check where India sat on the rankings table. But two matches have changed that. Comfortable victories in Kochi and Ranchi must have restored the confidence of the players. One hopes the fans too have taken notice.
So there's a lot to fight for as far as the Indians are concerned.
What about England? After their superb Test series win and coming with a depleted ODI squad, one assumed that they were not taking the limited overs series too seriously. But Rajkot proved otherwise. They thrived in conditions which were very much Indian and one thought the Indians were once again heading for an embarrassment. However, all of a sudden, the Alastair Cooks seem to be lost. They resemble a rudderless unit, unsure of their ways.
But all's not lost for the visitors. Here's how: Winter hasn't deserted Punjab yet and so the conditions in Mohali will be just the opposite of what it was in Kochi. That's a plus for the Englishmen. Ian Bell has even referred to it as England-like conditions. The pitch, too, threatens to assist the seamers and that should please the English bowlers more than their Indian counterparts.
Then, a win in Mohali can turn out to be crucial for England in their bid to remain undefeated ' series-wise ' in India. England had won the Test series and drew the T20 series 1-1. A victory for England on Wednesday would make it 2-2 with one match left. But there lies the twist. The fifth one-dayer is scheduled to be held in Dharamsala, where it is sub-zero as of Tuesday night. If the weather remains the same, one doubts if the match can be played at all. In that case 2-2 is how it would stand if England win in Mohali.
Now, some team news... Not many changes are expected in either XIs, though England might bring in Jos Butler in place of Craig Kieswetter. JadeDernbach may also make way for Stuart Meaker.
The Indian XI will probably remain unchanged, captain Dhoni had an injury scare at practice on Tuesday. Dhoni was hit on the thumb after a delivery from Manpreet Gony rose awkwardly, leaving him in pain for a brief period. But team sources claimed he was fine and would be available on Wednesday. Incidentally, Dhoni had taken a hit in similar fashion during the practice session in his homeground in Ranchi on the eve of the fourth one-dayer.
Also, local hero Yuvraj Singh skipped the net session due to a sore throat.
India (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Ishant Sharma.
England (likely): Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Jos Buttler, Tim Bresnan, James Tredwell, Steven Finn, Stuart Meaker.
Match starts: 12 noon