England have been criticised this winter for, apparently, prioritising the white-ball game ahead of the red. The five-match T20 series against India, which starts in Ahmedabad on Friday, represents a curiosity to prove those who were wrong, right.
The rotation policy used in Sri Lanka and then India has been about bubble fatigue. Or, to put it more bluntly, protecting players’ mental health. Yet England have a crop of players who vary from raring to go to being absolutely shattered. India, too.
So although this pits India, the No.3 side in the world, against the No.1 it is possible that we could see inconsistent, or maybe chaotic, performances. Players will come and go. And it makes for a tricky conundrum for punters to solve. India are no better than 8/13 to win the series with England 6/5. Both teams could start - and end the contest with very different XIs.
It seems hard to believe that Ben Stokes, bowled into the ground in the final Test, will appear in all five matches even if they are scheduled for every other day. Likewise Jofra Archer, who is a serious doubt with an elbow injury. India may look to rest Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant and Axar Patel at some stage.
This chopping and changing could well make it hard for a team to dominate. Although the data boffins would argue the study sample is small, the team which is able to most consistently put the same bodies on the field for the series should have an advantage. Often the importance of small, cohesive squads in franchise leagues are discussed. Just ask Kohli.
Kohli, of course, captains Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. They are a franchise renowned for changing their balance on a whim until settling on something before it’s too late. India could field four RCB players at a time in this series, something to be concerned about if you’re taking short odds.
England, perhaps, have advantage in the ice-cold leadership of Eoin Morgan.
Plus the fact that this is not a ‘conditions’ series. Morgan, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Chris Jordan are experienced IPL campaigners. You could add Stokes and Archer to the list if you think they’ll play.
The wise take from all this is that we have a tight series on our hands. Correct score wagers of 3-2 for each team at 7/4 India and 5/2 England might not be the worst strategy going.
If we have to factor in selection issues and rotation to our series thoughts, it would be criminal not to apply it to the tops markets. It would be unwise to pick a player who has been involved in the Test matches, for example.
So although we could make a case for the likes of Rohit at an eye-catching 4/1 for top India series bat or Pant at 12s, we’re going to have to swerve. Likewise Stokes at 9/1 for England.
KL Rahul stands out as the India wager. He is second favourite at 7/4 behind measly Kohli at 6/4. Rahul, the top bat in the IPL last time, is the home team’s Mr Reliable. He should open. He should score well. Hardik Pandya, who will surely play all five, could be the standout pick of the big numbers. He is 14s.
For England, Bairstow looks toppy at 4s. He didn’t play in all four Tests so he is unlikely to be on the ‘to rest’ list. And he has plenty to prove after a horror show in the Tests. He has proven before that white-ball format is a comfort rug.
On this week’s Cricket…Only Bettor we have advised a wager on Chris Jordan for top England series wicket-taker. Have a listen below to discover the rationale. India’s top bowler market looks wide open - they have had 13 different individual top bowler innings winners over the last two years - with their entire attack comprising entirely fresh players, although Jasprit Bumrah isn’t one of them. Don’t be surprised if Natarajan cops at 10/3 thanks to his excellent death skill