Pune: Young Virat Kohli will usher in a new era in Indian cricket when he leads the side tomorrow in the ODI series-opener against England in place of iconic Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who recently relinquished the captaincy in the limited over formats.
These are big boots to fill for Kohli, who will seek to carry forward the superb run in the home Test series into the limited over format.
Dhoni will be playing under Kohli for the first time as a pure wicket-keeper batsman and it would be interesting to see how the new arrangement works for India. Dhoni has always appeared cool as captain while Kohli does not mind being vocal and showing emotions on the field.
The three matches against the England are the only ODIs available for India to fine tune themselves before defending their Champions Trophy title in England in June.
As such the games assume enormous importance for the team which has been on the top in Test cricket in recently times but has not been as successful in the 50-over format.
After reaching the semi-finals in the 2015 World Cup Down Under, India had a mixed run in the ODIs, losing 11 out of 24 games. They lost series against South Africa (at home), Australia (away) and Bangladesh (away) but won against Zimbabwe (away) and New Zealand (at home).
On the plus side for India is the return of Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane, who made half-centuries for India A in the warm-up game in Mumbai against the tourists.
Back to the side to beef up the bowling attack are spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who combined forces to decimate England 4-0 in the Test series that ended in December. They were both rested for the preceding ODI series against New Zealand that India narrowly won 3-2.
India will miss their top limited-over star Rohit Sharma who is still out of action after undergoing surgery and have recalled Yuvraj Singh, their hero of the 2011 World Cup triumph at home, after four years.
Yuvraj will be playing for India after ten months, his last appearance being in the World T20 championship in which the Dhoni-led team lost the semifinals to the West Indies.
The left-hander has been recalled on the strength of a double hundred and a big hundred in the Ranji Trophy in October. He played in the warm-up game and showed he could still be a threat with his big hits.
However, he will be under pressure to perform with players like Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav, both named in the ODI team, breathing down his neck.
Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav are the options for seam while Amit Mishra is also present as back-up option to bowl spin.
In contrast, England have done better in ODIs although they have not won a series in India since 1984-85. Captain Eoin Morgan has led the team impressively although his own form has not been really encouraging of late.
As they showed in the first warm-up game, openers Jason Ray and Alex Hales can be a dangerous combination at the top even as the tourists also bat deep down which is a worry for the hosts.
In fact such is the availability of batting riches that Sam Billings – despite an impressive innings of 93 in the second warm-up – may not get to play with the presence of top batsman Joe Root who arrived late to India for personal reasons and did not play the two warm-ups in Mumbai.
The tourists showed vulnerability against spin in the warm-ups and with quite a few having been part of the drubbing suffered in the Test series. They need to overcome their doubts on how to play the slow bowlers.
The pace bowlers were also taken for some easy runs in the two warm-up games while the spinners could not apply the brakes in the middle overs.
These are areas of concern for the tourists as they go into the series on the back of a 11-5 win-loss record in 2016, including a fine run of only two losses in their last 12 ODIs.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav.
England: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes.
Match starts at 13:30 IST.