This marquee contest between the two top-ranked ODI teams has come at a critical juncture of the World Cup. After back-to-back losses to Sri Lanka and Australia, England are in the unenviable position of having to win this game and the next one against New Zealand to make it to the semi-finals. India are unbeaten and need just one more win in their next three games to qualify. But they will want to fix their batting after their bowlers had to bail them out twice against Afghanistan and the West Indies.
Mint tells you what to look out for in Sunday’s big game at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
The hole in the middle
Indian skipper Virat Kohli spoke at length in defence of M.S.Dhoni’s strike rate. But India’s problem is not just Dhoni getting stuck. It’s compounded by the selection of two middle order batsmen who look out of their league. Vijay Shankar is yet to make a fifty in 12 ODIs, apart from failing in a warm-up game before the World Cup. Kedar Jadhav’s 52 in 68 balls against Afghanistan is his only half-century in nine ODIs. India want them in the team for extra bowling options, but it has weakened the batting. The bowlers have come to the rescue twice to defend scores of 224 and 268. That may not work against stronger teams. So India should drop one of the utility players before it’s too late. If Rishabh Pant replaces Vijay Shankar in the game against England, he will get three outings before the semi-finals. The hard-hitting left-hander can put England leg-spinner Adil Rashid under pressure. Rashid took vital wickets in the ODI series against India last year.
Will the pitch be spin-friendly?
Edgbaston produces the most spin-friendly wickets in England, and this was evident in the New Zealand-Pakistan game. This would favour India who’re playing two wrist-spinners and can also use Jadhav’s round-arm off-spin. However, a fresh pitch will be used on Sunday,
and it remains to be seen how much grass the ground staff leaves on it to help the host team’s seamers or how much the sun bakes it to help England’s batsmen.
Advantage in batting first
Winning the toss could be a significant advantage. India’s spinners may get more purchase in the second half. For England, it could ease the nerves to bat first in a must-win game which is a virtual knockout for them. Pakistan did have a successful chase against New
Zealand, but this came from some adroit handling of spin and a modest target. New Zealand also erred in leaving out their leg-spinner and playing only one specialist spinner.
Desperately seeking Jason Roy
England will be desperate for opener Jason Roy to return even if he hasn’t fully recovered from his strained hamstring. Roy’s replacement James Vince has looked as much at sea as India’s middle order newcomer Vijay Shankar, who came in after the injury to opener Shikhar Dhawan.
South Asian stronghold
Birmingham has a large population of migrants from South Asia, and they will be out in force at the stadium. Interestingly, Pakistan supporters may also root for India, because England’s elimination will open the door for Pakistan to enter the semi-finals. That will be a sight to behold.
Sumit Chakraberty is the author of 2019 Cricket World Cup Thinking Cap.