A point to prove

As far as M. S. Dhoni and Team India are concerned, the five-match one-day series against England will be a platform to start the revival process and prove that they have the character to get back to the top.

Amidst all the razzmatazz of the Champions League T20, the arrival of the English team became incidental, which would have only pleased the visitors for they would rather prepare than get caught up in the glare of the media. They have come with a mixed bag and a glance at their squad makes it obvious that they are planning for the future and not giving this series any more importance than it deserves.

The inclusion of several players in their early twenties is something out of the ordinary as far as an England side is concerned. The policy of blooding youngsters was thought of as an exclusive right enjoyed by the teams in the sub-continent, but in recent times the England team management has done things differently in a bid to get to the top. The decision to rest James Anderson was as surprising as the inclusion of five fast bowlers in the Indian squad for the first two one-dayers. While the former decision indicates that England has taken player management to a different level, the latter fails to convince if there was any basis on which the decisions were made.

The announcement of the squad for the first two matches is another bizarre norm that is being continued and, to be honest, it does not help anyone. The selectors have the option of retaining the same squad for the remaining games also but announcing the squad for the entire series will give the team management enough time to work out its strategy. Besides, the new kids on the block and the fringe players will be rid of insecurity which will result in their performing at their best. The pressure element will be difficult to avoid, but it makes the job twice as difficult if the players are made to feel that they are on trial.

My point is not about who is picked, but the ones picked must be given the confidence that they have a full series to prove their mettle. The likes of (Sreenath) Aravind, (Varun) Aaron and (Umesh) Yadav are inexperienced. And being bowlers, they need to be given confidence not only by the team management but also the selectors. It will be interesting to see who among the three will be M. S. Dhoni's choice in the final XI. Dhoni did not give Aaron a game in England, and with Yadav coming back after an injury it gives Aravind the edge of sorts simply because he has been playing without a break.

There are a lot of things for Dhoni to sort out in the ODI series and the skipper will be keen to regain the golden touch that deserted him in England. Of course, a captain is only as good as his team, but the Indian skipper was far too defensive by his own standards. The suggestion that he should be replaced is absolute rubbish as one bad series, even if it happens to be a whitewash, cannot be held against the captain alone. However, the chances of Dhoni getting jaded, both mentally and physically, are high and there will come a time when he has to take a break. He can get drained completely at some point given the fact that he plays in all formats of the game and executes various demanding roles. The England series might have been the right one, but the problem is that Dhoni could be accused of losing his bottle in what is dubbed as a revenge series. The other issue is that the selectors will have a problem or two with regard to captaincy if Dhoni decides to take a break.

Gautam Gambhir might be the selectors' alternative choice for captaincy but he needs to get back to his usual form to command the respect of his team-mates. He had a very trying tour of England and now that he has recovered fully, he will be expected to lead India's charge in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. The Delhi opener will have to stick to number three since (Ajinkya) Rahane and (Parthiv) Patel fared reasonably well in the ODI series in England. Whether it will be by choice or by design is anybody's guess, but Gambhir will be under the scanner for more reasons than one. With the established stars having to reassert themselves while the younger lot has to prove itself, the pressure is on the hosts to erase the scars sustained in England.

By no means Team India wears a settled look and though they have the advantage of playing on home turf, they have their task cut out. In fact, the England side has nothing to lose as they are approaching this series as part of their building-up process which may prove to be a blessing in disguise. As far as Dhoni and Team India are concerned this series will be a platform to start the revival process and prove that they have the character to get back to the top.