London: England national selector Angus Fraser feels the upcoming five-match ODI series against India will be a tough one as the two teams will not just look to compete but also build up to the 2015 World Cup. The first ODI will be played in Bristol on Monday.
“England lost to Sri Lanka earlier in the summer and India have just been hurt in the last three weeks, and both the teams will want to correct that,” said Fraser.
“At the same time, they have to start preparations for the World Cup in Australia-New Zealand, and try to identify players who will be suited to the conditions there. So it is a tough balance between winning this series and getting ready for the World Cup, and both sides will be searching for it,” he added.
England will only be playing ODIs in the run-up to the World Cup with an engagement against Sri Lanka in the winter. India will be playing West Indies at home and the two sides will then again clash in a tri-series in Australia leading to the quadrennial event.
For this series, the hosts have made a couple of changes from their ODI series loss to Sri Lanka, dropping Ravi Bopara, Michael Carberry and Tim Bresnan. Alex Hales was drafted in to open alongside skipper Alastair Cook while Steve Finn was brought in for Stuart Broad who will miss the series owing to his long pending knee-surgery.
“By now, all sides have a nucleus of the players they want to take to the World Cup. There are always six-seven players who will be tried out in the coming months and they can at best fill the last three-four spots,” said Fraser, who joined the selection panel in March this year, after Andy Flower stepped down as team-director.
“That tri-series in Australia will be a dress-rehearsal, a mini-World Cup before the real event, and I think all three sides will play their World Cup squads there, more or less,” he added.
India too have a couple of ‘young’ additions to their squad with Sanju Samson and Karn Sharma part of the set-up. The selectors back home have also sent forth Dhawal Kulkarni and Mohit Sharma to try out their options ahead of the World Cup.
When asked which Indian players England will watch out for in the coming series, Fraser couldn’t really pin-point one name. “You cannot look further than Virat Kohli. Ravindra Jadeja is another name that comes to mind. But Shikhar Dhawan should do well as he is a fantastic timer of the ball,” he said.
“The thing about this Indian side is that they have so many good players, fantastic players who have played a lot of one-day cricket and have performed to a high level. When you have that many good players, you want one of them to perform each game. India will be looking for the big names to come through and set an example for the rest of the squad.”
If that does happen, India will be able to turn around their tour after suffering embarrassment in the last three Tests at Southampton, Manchester and the Oval, squandering their 1-0 lead in the series gained at Lord’s.
When asked how the selectors helped this turnaround after low morale in the hosts’ camp, the former England fast bowler credited the players alone. “It wasn’t down to selection, rather it was only performance of the players,” said Fraser.
“They are the ones who score runs and take wickets. They created situations throughout the summer until Lord’s but when they were in a dominant position to control the game, they let it slip and the opposition took advantage.
“Then England put their game together, James Anderson and Stuart Broad took wickets, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell scored runs, and the youngsters were already contributing. Youth should be given a chance yes, but if you have too many young players in the side then that can be very unpredictable as a team and you become over-reliant on your senior players.”
Although Broad is out having surgery, Anderson too was expected to be given rest for this ODI series. But he has been included in the side to face India.
“They form a crucial partnership for England and are two outstanding bowlers, perhaps they will go down as England’s finest bowling partnership. Broad is behind Anderson at the moment but if he can stay fit, they will both end up with 400-plus Test wickets. It is up to the team management and selectors to making sure that their careers as long as they can possibly be,” he added.
The Anderson-Broad partnership was ably supported by Moeen Ali coming through and it is expected that he will challenge the Indian batsmen again in the upcoming ODI series.
“At this stage last year, we had Graeme Swann bowling for England, who was a leading spinner in the world arguably. We also had Monty Panesar and the spin stock wasn’t a problem. All of a sudden those two disappeared and we have been looking for replacements and it has not been as easy as we would have hoped.
“But the way Moeen has performed has been magnificent given that he was described as a part-timer. I still don’t think he has suddenly become an out-and-out world class spinner but he has shown huge potential and we want to continue that potential,” Fraser signed off.