Champions Trophy on India’s mind ahead of Eden ODI vs England (Preview, Lead)

Kolkata, Jan 21 (IANS) Ironing out deficiencies and building on a formidable squad will be at the top of India’s agenda against England in their third and final One Day International (ODI) at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday ahead of the Champion’s trophy.

The three-match rubber has already been pocketed by Virat Kohli’s men who have won the first two matches at Pune and Cuttack.

But with there being no 50-over matches before June when the Champions Trophy gets underway in England, coach Anil Kumble and captain Kohli will have a final chance to assess the squad before they play a one-off Test against Bangladesh and then a four-match Test series against Australia.

India seemed a relaxed bunch on Saturday with only nine players attending the optional training session. Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni took a close look at the Eden pitch along with national selector and former Bengal captain Devang Gandhi.

“He (Dhoni) watches everything closely. He gives feedback how a batsman is playing. When skipper Virat is fielding it’s always easy for Dhoni to communicate his ideas on what can we do. It’s very useful when your wicketkeeper becomes proactive,” pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar said at the pre-match media briefing.

The hosts have played like a well-oiled machine so far in the series whether chasing a target or batting first.

If in the first tie, it was Kohli’s turn to lead from the front in a 351-run chase along with Kedar Jadhav, the second match was all about seasoned campaigners Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni (134) turning back the clock with a sublime 256-run stand that set up India’s win.

The duo, important members in India’s 2011 World Cup winning team, dragged India out of a hole with vintage batting displays after joining hands with the team tottering at 25/3 batting first.

In the first ODI at Pune, Jadhav, batting at No.6 scored a brilliant century when the team was reeling at 63/4. Kohli later described the innings as being out of the ordinary.

Kohli, too played a masterly innings, one which is so typical of India’s finest batsman in current times, to notch up his 27th ODI ton and 17th in a run chase.

But the opening slot remains a worry with both Shikhar Dhawan and K.L. Rahul failing to get going.

While Dhawan, struggling for runs, has a nagging finger injury that might keep him out of action at Eden, Rahul will have to improve markedly if he wants to secure his place for the Champions Trophy.

Rohit Sharma, who is usually preferred to open the batting in ODIs, is out injured. Ajinkya Rahane is an option but poor form in the last series against New Zealand at home is the reason the elegant right-hander is yet to be drafted in the playing XI.

Rahane could get a chance to stake a claim in the side on Sunday.

India’s bowling battery was under pressure in the last ODI, when while defending 381, England captain Eoin Morgan threatened to pull off a memorable win, ultimately falling 15 runs short.

Spin hotshot Ravichandran Ashwin translated his Test form in ODIs as well picking up three wickets which included the prized scalp of Morgan to all but seal the match.

For the tourists, it hasn’t been all downhill with their batsmen showing enough resolve to take the challenge to India. Besides Morgan, opener Jason Roy, the highly rated Joe Root and all-rounder Ben Stokes have played well.

What has let them down though is their bowling which is thin on experience especially in sub-continental conditions.

England practiced for two and a half hours on Saturday, in complete contrast to India’s relaxed approach.

Sam Billings is likely to play in place of injured opener Alex Hales who was ruled out of the rest of the tour with a fractured hand and had to fly back home.

The pitch at the Eden is expected to be a high-scoring one bereft of any grass. With the arena being much bigger compared to Pune and Cuttack, the competition could be tougher.

Kohli has already stated there wouldn’t be any drop in intensity. It is expected to be a fiercely contested tie despite there being little to play for in terms of the series.

–IANS

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