Delhi Belly

The second India v England ODI starts in a few hours. England played poorly and were hammered in the first one, but I think they’ll do better this time. Andy Flower does not seem like the type to tolerate the kind of sloppiness England displayed throughout the first ODI and I’m sure there will have been a lot of work put in since then. England can take some hope from the fact that they also looked set to lose the first ODI in England before the rains came. England shook that off well, so we know England can certainly come back in this series.

Beyond the obvious ‘playing better’ the biggest thing I think that England can do to improve today is to play Ian Bell. On the face of it, the decision not to play him in the first ODI makes sense. Although he has matured into one of the most elegant test batsmen in the world right now, his ODI record is distinctly mediocre. He is, however, the best player of spin in the England side. England looked set to make a game of it on Friday before collapsing to India’s spinners. There are other things that England could do and may do, but I think this is the most important.

Of course, to do so is to bring up the question of who should be dropped in Bell’s favour. Kevin Pietersen has had the least success in ODIs recently, but after sitting out the home series it would be a shock if he missed another one. KP also has the ability to take a match away from the opposition, even if he hasn’t been showing it in ODIs recently. India would probably love to see him dropped, so I would keep him in. There have been a lot of suggestions that Trott should be dropped, as he bats too slowly. This is a bit harsh though, it’s more the case that he bats steadily. His career strike rate is is 78, which isn’t blistering, but it’s respectable, especially coupled with his career average of 51. Kieswetter may be an option. He’s in the side because of his ability to hit out at the top of the order, but he rarely goes on after making a start. Jonny Bairstow, who looks like getting an extended run after an excellent start to his career, is naturally a wicketkeeper so Kieswetter could be dropped on the basis of his batting. Dropping Bopara would be harsh, as he has settled into the ODI side and had an excellent summer.

Taking all that into consideration, I would at least experiment with dropping Kieswetter and promoting KP to open. England briefly tried that during the World Cup (before KP left with an injury) and it went reasonably well. KP scored at better than a run a ball against India and Ireland and only failed against South Africa in a match where almost every batsman failed. I would keep Trott at three and put Bell at four. Bairstow would then keep and bat sixth. Another possibility to consider is dropping Samit Patel and playing with one fewer bowler. I don’t really like this, as it would leave England with just one spinner and force Bopara, Pietersen and possibly Bell himself to bowl ten overs between them. Were anyone to be dropped purely on performance, however, it would likely be Patel.

I doubt any of this will actually happen. Kieswetter is established in his role as keeper, and hasn’t failed so badly that he would be dropped on his own merits (or lack thereof). But more than that, Andy Flower has tended to stick with sides and not make rash changes. On the whole I applaud this, but in a five match series England cannot afford another drubbing. Ian Bell represents England’s best change of negating India’s spin and I think it is a mistake not to play him.

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