Pune: India's bench strength is one of the best in the world. And the entire cricketing world will envy that. And on the eve of the second ODI, with Shreyas Iyer ruled out of action for another four months, Rishabh Pant is all set to play at number 4.
Iyer's dislocated shoulder has once again brought Pant in focus and his ODI comeback looks imminent after an all-round show by the hosts ensured an easy victory in the first game.
Iyer has been one of India's most prolific 50-over batsman before the COVID-19 enforced lockdown but such is the team's strength that his replacement looks more formidable for a world champion opposition, who are no less menacing but seem utterly confused at this point.
India will be without Shreyas Iyer, while England ponder on the fitness of Sam Billings and Eoin Morgan. The difference between the two sides, the former has a good bench strength while the visitors in search mode for replacement.
Skipper Virat Kohli has not had Ravindra Jadeja's services for close to three months but neither Axar Patel in Tests, and now Krunal Pandya in the ODIs, have let the team miss their maverick from Rajkot.
Prasidh Krishna, already a household name due to IPL, looked completely at home on his ODI debut, hurrying batsmen for pace in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.
And come to think of it, once Jadeja and Bumrah are back, a Krunal or Krishna will either cool their heels in the dug-out or even worse, not find a place in the squad, which is a testimony to India's unimaginable depth of talent pool.
The biggest positive during the opening game was Shikhar Dhawan's return to form with a match-winning 98. He was under pressure after being benched for a large part of the T20 series.
The elegant southpaw would be raring to go one more time.
Rohit Sharma had sustained a blow to his elbow during the first match but is expected to be fit in time for the second game.
However, as per sources, Rohit, the hitman, is keen to get cracking as it's not very serious.
The pace trio of experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Prasidh Krishana and the ever-improving Shardul Thakur took nine of the 10 wickets and would be keen to rock the England batting line-up again.
The best part was how they came back after first 15 overs of mayhem by Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow.
Shardul has been continuously playing and it won't be a bad option to try out T Natarajan or Mohammed Siraj for a bit of variation.
"One of our sweetest victories in recent past. We haven't won many good games in ODIs. I am, really a proud man right now," skipper Kohli had said after the first match as he sounded pleased with the team's effort.
Meanwhile, England will look to level the series and stay alive in the contest.
England have a lot to ponder on and injuries to skipper Eoin Morgan and batsman Sam Billings, while fielding, in the lung-opener have only added to their woes. Both appear doubtful for the second game.
Bairstow was among the runs as he blazed to 94 off 64 balls as was his partner Roy (46).
The two would be looking to put up another fine show and carry forward the aggressive brand of cricket, which was the cornerstone of the 2019 World Cup triumph.
England Playing XI:
Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Dawid Malan, Jos Buttler(w/c), Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, Reece Topley.
India Playing XI:
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli(c), KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant(w), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Shardul Thakur, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna.
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