A five-match ODI series between England and India is a mouthwatering prospect at the moment, because while the series is being played in India, the hosts are down on their luck.
A five-match ODI series between England and India is a mouthwatering prospect at the moment, because while the series is being played in India, where England have traditionally not done well in limited-overs games, the hosts are down on their luck.
India go into the series on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Pakistan, though their single victory was in the third match so they will be feeling a bit more confident after that. Still, it wasn't a vintage batting effort then, as they were all out for 167, and their batsmen will need to put on a better show against the Three Lions.
To help shore up their stocks, the selectors have dropped the out-of-form Virender Sehwag and brought in Test sensation Cheteshwar Pujara. The 24-year-old goes into the series on the back of a triple century in the Ranji Trophy, though he is not expected to feature in the first ODI.
Ajinkya Rahane is set to open alongside Gautam Gambhir, though the pressure is on him as a failure could see Pujara make his debut. Also needing to make an impression is Rohit Sharma, who is in the side mostly thanks to Manoj Tiwary's injury woes.
England, meanwhile, lost both of their warm-up matches, which does not bode well for the series. Still, Ian Bell managed to get two big scores in those games, so that's a positive change from the Test series for him.
England's bowling coach, David Saker, will be a bit worried about his charges' efficacy though, as the second warm-up against Delhi saw them fail to defend 294. It's not often a domestic team bests an international one, but Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker and Chris Woakes did not make life tough for the Delhi batsmen.
Otherwise, England will be thrilled to have Kevin Pietersen on the books full time, as his new ECB contract's ink is still drying. He adds stability and experience to the middle order, while Eoin Morgan will be eager to up his stats.
The first ODI is being played at a venue that has not seen an international match. The Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium has seen some controversy in the past with huge cracks, so it's anyone's guess how the wicket will play.
<b>Key Men</b><br>While he may not have played an ODI before, India batsman <b>Cheteshwar Pujara</b> was a thorn in the English side during the Test series and he has been prolific on the domestic scene. He could well destroy England's chances of another series win, if he plays more than once.
For England, <b>Steve Finn's</b> return could prove vital. The fast bowler has missed a lot of action in recent weeks with various injuries, but when he is fit he is often the pick of the attack. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are being rested, so Finn is the senior paceman.
<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2011: 5th ODI: England won by six wickets in Cardiff<br>2011: 4th ODI: Match tied (D/L method) at Lord's<br>2011: 3rd ODI: England won by three wickets at the Oval<br>2011: 2nd ODI: England won by seven wickets at Southampton<br>2011: 1st ODI: No result at Chester-le-Street
<b>Prediction</b><br>Online betting firm <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Sky Bet</b></a> have India at 4/7 and England at 11/8 in the odds to win the series. Visit Sky Bet for the latest <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket betting</b></a>.
More <a href='https://twitter.com/bet365' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket bets</b></a> here.
<b>Squads</b><br><i>India:</i> MS Dhoni (capt), Cheteshwar Pujara, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Amit Mishra
<i>England:</i> Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Jade Dernbach, Steve Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Stuart Meaker, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Joe Root, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes
<b>Fixtures</b><br>First ODI: 11 Janaury, Rajkot<br>Second ODI: 15 January, Kochi<br>Third ODI: 19 January, Ranchi<br>Fourth ODI:23 January, Mohali<br>Fifth ODI: 27 January, Dharamsala