England’s brief tour of India has given coach Andy Flower a lot more to think about than he would have anticipated. Flower isn’t one for knee-jerk reactions and will take his time to digest what has occurred on and off the field in India but, inwardly, he must be seething that even England‘s senior pros have lost their discipline in the face of an Indian attack which they had treated with disdain on home soil just weeks earlier.
As everyone in cricket knows, India aren’t great travellers but thrive on the home comforts of slow, turning pitches on the sub-continent. Even so, the transformation among England‘s batsmen from world-beaters to prize chumps is hard to defend. Johnathan Trott has scored more than 2000 runs in international cricket over the last 12 months but has looked like a rabbit trapped in headlights over the five-match one-day series, while Kevin Pietersen has contrived to get himself out at the most inopportune moments. Excuses can probably made for Johnny Bairstow, who was seriously over-hyped after just one England innings and his time may come again, but how many more opportunities will the selectors give perennial failure Ravi Bopara? The bowlers don’t escape criticism either. Graeme Swann went into the series as the world’s number one limited-overs bowler but has looked largely disinterested and failed to assert any measure of control. Even the normally reliable Tim Bresnan has been flayed to all corners of the ground and there are signs that Jade Dernbach‘s variations have already been worked out. Only Steven Finn has emerged with any credit and England have much work to do if they are to improve a miserable World Cup record at the 50-over game in four years’ time.
India will feel they have proved a point after whitewashing England in the one-day series. M S Dhoni and his players had a torrid time in England over the summer and had been written off in some quarters. But this series has proved they have some youngsters ready to step into the shoes of their ageing stars. Dhoni and Praveen Kumar have proved themselves to be class performers and Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin clearly top-notch spinners under the right conditions.
So can England restore a bit of pride in this weekend’s closing T20 encounter in Kolkata? The tourists are, of course, reigning world champions at the short version of the game and only Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Stuart Broad and possibly Jimmy Anderson are likely to be missing from their best XI. Blue Square and 888sport offer 6/4 that Swann and his team-mates will go home with a victory under their belt, however, with India general 8/13 favourites to win again at Eden Gardens. One thing in England’s favour is that they can call up recently-arrived T20 specialists Alex Hales and Jos Buttler, though whether they’ll cope any better with the Indian spinners in a matter of conjecture. Buttler could be a decent bet at Ladbrokes’ 10/1, however, though Craig Kieswetter has to be fancied in that market at a general 7/2 if he gets away to a flier at the top of the order. M S Dhoni was undefeated through the entire one-day series and the Indian captain is 6/1 with Victor Chandler to be his side’s top scorer in the tour finale.