It’s the first big match for India in the preliminary group phase, and the contest against England should be a good one. Both teams have played and won against Afghanistan in their opening tie, and one shouldn’t try to draw any conclusion from the margins of victory. India won a close contest, while England looked a smart unit, but come Sunday it may well be a different ball game.
In recent times, India have generally had the better of England in the 50-over arena, and MS Dhoni and his boys will be keen to extend that to Twenty20, where England have won the last three meetings.
England have a lot of young faces in the side. There’s no Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen or Ravi Bopara, and the holders have brought in fresh legs to defend the title. In Stuart Broad they have a young captain, for a format in which they say that you always need to be two steps ahead.
It will be interesting to find out how they fare against the Indian attack, which should be quite spin-heavy. The pitches in Sri Lanka have undergone a lot of change since the days of Muttiah Muralitharan. They have fair bit of bounce and carry which the seamers from all teams are enjoying. Such pitches also excite the spinners, and I would love to see R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh attacking the English batsmen in tandem, backed by Yuvraj Singh, whose left-arm spin can cause problems.
The Indian openers need to find their groove quickly. Virender Sehwag was shaping up well in the warm-up against Pakistan but didn’t carry on. Gautam Gambhir has also looked rusty. But I am sure that good form is right round the corner. Even in a Twenty20 game, they just need to give themselves some more time at the crease. If India gets a good start, with Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dhoni, Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma waiting in the dugout, the batting will really worry opponents.
It’s the bowling and the balance of the side that needs more discussion. I think India should go in with five bowlers, especially with Irfan Pathan available. He has been in form with the ball and his batting ability lends strength to the lower order. Dhoni should really have a look at this. There’s also a lack of genuine pace, with Ashok Dinda the quickest in the squad.
England’s bowling looks more balanced, but the likes of Kohli, Dhoni and Rohit will test them. With Yuvraj back in the side, Broad might also find memories of those six sixes in Durban flooding back. English cricket has been through a bit of turmoil, losing the Test series to South Africa and then seeing Andrew Strauss retire. The Pietersen issue is still unresolved, and they have an Indian tour coming up. They will be keen to put all that behind them, and unearth lots of positives from this tournament.