By Andrew Robinson
Consistently inconsistent – that is one term which could be levelled at England’s cricketers over the past year or so.
Taught a lesson by Pakistan at the turn of 2012, they then went on to draw with Sri Lanka, defeat the West Indies and lose to South Africa in Test matches.
More recently, an abject performance against India in Ahmedabad was followed up by two wins and a draw to make history.
Having spent Christmas at home, England have returned to India with unfinished business – to beat their opponents at their own game: 50-over cricket.
Alastair Cook’s side have won only one of their last 18 matches of ‘pyjama cricket’ in India and look like they face a tough task this time around having been beaten by the ‘A’ side and Delhi in warm-up matches.
Their task for the five-match series is made even harder as James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott have been rested – or given extra time to recover from turkey guzzling over the festive period.
This is reflected in the odds with India available at 4/6 and England at 6/5. Much of England’s hopes will lie with the mercurial Kevin Pietersen – now reintegrated and signed up to a full contract – he can be backed at 10/3 to be the top run scorer for captain Cook’s side in the first match of the series.
India have dropped the brilliant-but-aging Virender Sehwag and his place could go to the impressive Cheteshwar Pujara.
When you talk cricket in India, spinning pitches are never far from your mind, and for this reason Ravichandran Ashwin is the favourite to be the home side’s destroyer in chief with the ball at 11/4. For England, Steven Finn can be backed at the same price, with Kent twirler James Tredwell at 10/3.
Cook will also look towards the likes of Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker for breakthroughs, but the recurring theme of consistency could rear its ugly head.