Please don’t wake me

India v England round two: ‘This time there’s curry’ starts later this week. Specifically it starts at 04.00 CDT on Friday. Which is quite early, especially for a completely pointless series. It isn’t even a proper ’round two’, it’s only an ODI/T20 series. The real round two will be in a year’s time, when England go back for a four test series. England aren’t playing the tests now because… well… I’m sure there’s some reason. Anyway it’s an ODI series in India, which means that England won’t win. Douglas Adams explained why in Life, the Universe and Everything: ‘They care, we don’t. They win.’ And history supports this; England haven’t won an ODI against India in India since the sixth ODI of the 2006 tour, which was a dead rubber. England lost that series 5-1 (with one match rained off) and lost the next ODI tour 5-0 (with two matches cancelled after the Mumbai terror attack). To be fair to England, they have improved considerably since those tours, albeit more in test matches than in limited overs ones.

I was tempted to suggest that the most recent match in India (in the World Cup) was the best barometer. This may be the case, but that match featured a 120 off 115 balls from Sachin Tendulkar, 5-48 from Tim Bresnan, 158 off 145 balls from Andrew Strauss and a brilliant spell from Zaheer Khan in which he took three wickets for one run in six balls. Of those four players, however, Khan and Tendulkar are injured and Strauss has retired. India have sustained numerous injuries since the World Cup, whilst retirements and a youth movement have rendered England almost unrecognisable from the team that performed so mercurially during the World Cup.

England will have the momentum coming off their home ODI wins, but I don’t think this is worth much, if anything. (In the last Ashes England had the momentum going into the Perth test, which they lost heavily. Subsequently Australia had the momentum going into the Melbourne test and were bowled out for 98 on the first day.) What may have more an effect is India’s desire for revenge. TMS’s Adam Mountford says India are billing this series as ‘The Payback Series’. (They don’t seem to be short of confidence.) England should do better in this series than in ODI series past (they could hardly do worse, mind), but I don’t know that they’ll win it. England have a lot of inexperienced players, and I doubt they’ll do much better in the unfamiliar Indian conditions than the Indians did in the unfamiliar English conditions over the summer. (Though Bairstow and Borthwick didn’t seem troubled in the last warm up match.)

It is an odd series in that it’s interesting on paper (England’s first trip to India since their revival under Strauss and Flower) without actually being interesting. It isn’t a test series, but there is one coming up in a year. We just played India anyway, so it doesn’t stir up any interest in that regard. Obviously the series is good for the ECB coffers (a good thing), but I think England (and probably India) would be better served by having a bit of a break. A win would allow England to rub India’s nose in the dirt a bit, but a loss would allow India to say that the series in England meant nothing, so England really have nothing to gain.

I’m not sure how much of the series I’ll listen to. As motivations to get out of bed before dawn a meaningless ODI does not rank in the top ten. And even upon successfully getting up it is hard to stay awake through the middle overs of an ODI on just three hours of sleep. (I know from experience.) I’ll see how I feel when the alarm goes off at 03.30 on Friday morning.

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