Trio of beginnings in India-England ODIs
The one-day series between India and England not only marks a new era with Sachin Tendulkar no longer available to the hosts and Ashley Giles in charge of the tourists, but also because three of the five games will be played at grounds that have not hosted international cricket.
Rajkot, Ranchi and Dharamsala are the new venues at which a Tendulkar-less team will play England ODI and T20 head coach Giles’ side, along with Kochi and Mohali.
The series, which begins with a quartet of day/night contests, takes in all four corners of India during the space of 16 days.
The tourists, who won the Test series 2-1 and drew the Twenty20 international rubber 1-1 before Christmas, are due to arrive back in India on Thursday.
Following tour games in Delhi on January 6 and 8, they travel to Rajkot in the industrially developed western state of Gujarat for the series opener at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on January 11. The venue was established in 2009 and has a capacity of 28,000.
The series continues four days later - in almost the southern tip of India - at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the vibrant city of Kochi. The 60,000-capacity ground, which doubles as a football venue, consists of several tiers that make for an electric atmosphere when filled.
The pitch has often been a batsman’s paradise with four of the 12 ODI innings there exceeding 300, including India overhauling South Africa’s 301 in March 2000.
England’s only international at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was a four-wicket ODI loss to India in April 2006 that left the tourists 4-0 down en route to a 5-1 defeat. Kevin Pietersen was the game’s top-scorer with 77, but Yuvraj Singh was man of the match for his two economical wickets and knock of 46.
Ranchi, the hometown of India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and capital of the eastern state of Jharkhand hosts the 3rd ODI on January 19. The JSCA International Stadium received ICC approval only in mid-October.
The series then moves to the north and Mohali’s Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, a location that was converted in the early 1990s from a swamp with deep ravines to a world-class venue, for the fourth match on January 23.
The 20th and most recent ODI at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium was England’s first there, in October 2011. Jonathan Trott’s unbeaten 98 underpinned a competitive 298 for four, but 91 from man of the match Ajinkya Rahane set up a five-wicket India win with four balls to spare that completed the third leg of a 5-0 whitewash.
Those totals are typical of another batting-friendly surface that has yielded seven 300-plus ODI scores, with a best of 351 made by South Africa versus the Netherlands at the 2011 World Cup.
The series ends by going further north to the remote Dharamsala for a day game on January 27 at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium - a venue that will exhibit the area’s natural beauty.
The 23,000-capacity ground is 1,317 metres above sea level and has the stunning Dauladhar hill-range as its backdrop. Hopefully the last action of the rubber will be equally eye-catching.