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by Dan Roebuck
A Tale of Two Captains: Controversial Skippers Pose Punters Problems.
The build-up to England’s three match limited-overs series in India has been dominated by the captains of both teams, with bettors best laid plans muddied by questions surrounding Eoin Morgan’s return for the tourists and the appointment of Virat Kohli for the hosts.
The visitors price is not at all surprising given it has been 22 years since a Three Lions team were successful in a one day series in this part of the world. What punters do have to figure out, however, is just what effect, if any, the changes of captaincy will have on the two the teams.
How much pressure is on Kohli? India expects.
India have enjoyed a decade of brilliance under MS Dhoni, winning the World Cup in both the 50 and 20 over format of the game, and his decision to stand down as skipper will heap the pressure on his replacement.
Sure, Kohli, who can be backed at 8/5 to be the top batsmen for India over the course of the three matches, led the hosts to an easy victory in the recent test series between the two teams, but to match Dhoni’s improvisation and inspiration as a captain is a big ask.
You can’t crab his average – 52.94 in 176 matches – nor his form in 2016 – which included two limited overs centuries in Australia – but there is a real feeling this could be another disjointed display by India. It was only last year they were thumped 4-1 Down Under and only just scrambled past New Zealand 3-2 at home.
Still, India have lost just two of their last 14 two-team series in front of their own fans and deserve to be short-priced market leaders.
England are a team primed to surprise.
But could England do what South Africa did two years ago and come away with a rare series win from India? If there is a man to lead them to an against the odds success, it’s Morgan. The Dubliner, 11/2 to be England’s top series run scorer, cited security issues as the reason for missing the recent 2-1 win in Bangladesh (Alex Hales – 13/4 to be top batsman – also missed the tour and returns).
His absence in the autumn series was sanctioned, but there have been rumours some in the England management set up were non-too happy with his refusal to go.
Everything will be forgotten if Morgan can find his form. However, after the Middlesex left-hander knocked an unbeaten 71 from 50 balls to help Sydney Thunder defeat Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash, he’s struggled since joining up with England, going for a first ball duck against India A earlier this week (in what turned out to be an embarrassing defeat).
Indian spin for the win.
The hosts leaned heavily on the dual spin threat of Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja in the 4-0 test series win, and, at 7/4 and 13/4 respectively to be India’s top series bowler, they will be key to any home success. The preference here is to back Ashwin, who took 28 wickets in the long format of the game last month and has a slightly better one-day record than Jadeja.
England fans and backers will be hoping new father Joe Root can blast the tourists to victory. At 9/4 to be top series run-scorer for England, Root rarely fails with the bat and is one of the few players that can boast big scores on the sub-continent in all forms of the game.
The Yorkshire batsmen’s talent alone could see England win one of the three matches in the series, but the overall glory should still be India’s, with a 2-1 correct score at 11/8 the best bet. Meaning Kohli’s tenure as one-day captain of the world’s most demanding cricketing nation will get off to a winning start at the expense of Morgan’s men.