World Cup 2019 countdown begins for India and England

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England captain Eoin Morgan and India skipper Virat Kohli.

The World Cup is less than one year away. For most teams, preparations have started with even Test matches being used as some sort of a testing ground for players who can succeed in English conditions.

For two of the biggest contenders at the showpiece event next year, the countdown has definitely begun. England are hosting the World Cup in June-July next year and are looking like they have a real shot at it this time. They better, because after the disaster that was the 2015 World Cup Down Under, England have actively shifted their focus to white-ball, and especially ODI cricket, and put aggression at the front and centre of their cricket.

Some would suggest England have risen to the No1 position in ODIs at the expense of their Test cricket. In the last three years, England won an impressive 43 out of 63 ODIs with just 17 defeats. They just thrashed world champions Australia 4-1 in their backyard and 5-0 in the home ODI series. However in Tests, England have won just 16 out of 42 matches and lost 20 games in the same period, slipping to fifth in the world. But hey, they are the No1 ODI team.

India have taken a more wholistic approach. Captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri want the Indian team to be competitive against every opponent, in every condition and all formats. The coach routinely talks about every match being a ‘home’ game for both teams since the pitch is same for both teams and there are hardly any unknowns in the modern era.

The Indians have accumulated a battery of genuine fast bowlers which can match the best in the world when it comes to experience and variety. The batting, at least the top of the order, can take any attack in the world apart while the strict fitness guidelines have meant even proven performers have failed to make the cut if found short of desired standards, leading to a period of sustained excellence from India.

In the last three years, India have won 38 out of 56 ODIs with 17 defeats. Pretty good, considering they have maintained a stupendous record in Test cricket – 23 wins and four defeats in 34 matches in three years plus the No1 ranking.

India begin the England leg of their tour in Manchester in the first of three T20s on Tuesday. The result in those three T20s won’t matter that much to either team. the T20, ODI and five-match Test series all have one overarching aim – find the players who can withstand the pressure and deliver against the best.

India will be without pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah at the start of the T20 series while Virat Kohli has hardly had any bat coming into the arduous tour. England will be sweating over the fitness of Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes. That will mean opportunities for those on the fringe to make a lasting impression and even claim a permanent spot in the starting eleven.

As two of the best teams in the world prepare for battle for the next two and a half months, every move they make from now will be another step towards the World Cup.

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Injuries to India bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Washington Sundar golden opportunity for Deepak Chahar and Krunal Pandya

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Deepak Chahar (l) and Krunal Pandya are now in India's T20 side. Images: BCCI

Every cloud has a silver lining. Virat Kohli and the India will be hoping that is the case following injuries to fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah and spinner Washington Sundar.

Bumrah injured the thumb on his left hand during the first T20 against Ireland and scans revealed a fracture. The Indian team management has decided to rest Bumrah for the three-match T20 series against England which begins in Manchester on Tuesday.

All-rounder Sundar was ruled out of the two-match T20 series in Ireland after injuring his ankle while playing football during training.

The twin injuries mean golden opportunities to other players. While Bumrah’s loss is set to be seamer Deepak Chahar’s gain, Sundar’s injury has  opened the doors for all-rounder Krunal Pandya.

Chahar has been called up as a replacement for Bumrah in the T20 series against England and he could sneak into the ODI team as well if the management decides to hold Bumrah back for the five-match Test series in August. Even if that doesn’t happen, it will be a remarkable turn of events for Chahar.

The 25-year-old fast bowler from Rajasthan impressed one and all during IPL 2018, forming a lethal new-ball partnership with South African quick Lungi Ngidi for Chennai Super Kings.

He was then selected for India ‘A’ team’s tour of England and has excelled in the 50-over format. After picking up three wicket hauls in two warm-up matches, Chahar picked up five wickets against West Indies ‘A’ in the tri-series followed by a two-wicket burst against the same opposition.

His ability to swing the ball both ways with a strong action action and good pace, coupled with his more than handy lower-order hitting power have made Chahar a possible long-term prospect for India in all formats.

Krunal, the elder brother of India all-rounder Hardik, is another player who has fought hard to attract the attention of the senior team management.

The left-arm spinner is a wily bowler in the middle overs and an attacking lower order batsman who has been knocking on the doors of the Indian team for more than a few seasons. However, Ravindra Jadeja in Tests and Axar Patel in ODIs are ahead of him in the pecking order.

However, Krunal offers more with the bat than the other two left-arm spinners which makes him the perfect candidate to replace Sundar in the T20 squad.

Kohli and the coach Ravi Shastri will get a chance to know what Chahar and Krunal are made of during the three-match T20 series against England. The long tour of England was always going to throw up opportunities to those on the fringe of the senior team to stake their claim for a spot in the playing XI. Now is the chance for two of the most hard-working limited overs players in the Indian domestic circuit.

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India's Washington Sundar reportedly ruled out of T20 series against England, Krunal Pandya likely replacement

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Sundar suffered an ankle injury during the Ireland T20 series.

India were dealt a double injury blow ahead of their limited-overs clashes against England with Washington Sundar joining Jasprit Bumrah on the sidelines.

Pacer Bumrah was ruled out of the three-match T20I series after injuring his thumb off his own bowling during the first T20 between Ireland and India at Dublin. While the fast bowler’s injury was initially suspected to be a lot worst, he is now said to be in contention for the ODI series which will follow the three T20 clashes.

Rajasthan pacer Deepak Chahar, who is currently on a tour of England with the India ‘A’ side, has been called in to replace Bumrah for the T20I series. Chahar impressed with the new ball in hand for champions Chennai Super Kings in the recent IPL and has been in good wicket-taking form in the ongoing tri-series in England also involving the English Lions and West Indies ‘A’ team.

Krunal Pandya is in frame to replace the injured Sundar.

Krunal Pandya is in frame to replace the injured Sundar.

Sundar, who landed awkwardly on his right ankle during a game of football ahead of India’s first T20 clash against Ireland, is said to have been ruled out of the England T20 series too. While there has been no official confirmation on the spinning all-rounder’s injury status as of yet, reports suggest that he will be replaced by Krunal Pandya.

Krunal too, like Chahar, has been in England for some time now with the India ‘A’ squad after showing some consistent performances for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

The T20 series between England and India is due to get underway on Tuesday at Old Trafford in Manchester. The ODI series to follow will begin on June 12.

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