As countdowns for the World Cup go, neither England nor India can claim to have started in the best shape. While the rain tippled down in Bristol, washing out the first of five contests, there was enough aggravation off the field to occupy both sides.
It will not matter how gloomy the weather gets, Duncan Fletcher will be reluctant to remove his shades as he contends with a reshuffle which has seen Ravi Shastri imposed as team director with, it seems, a brief to assess Fletcher’s performance ahead of the World Cup. MS Dhoni’s assertion that Fletcher will definitely coach India in that World Cup is not universally shared, and with Joe Dawes and Trevor Penney on gardening leave, confusion abounds.
England have their own issues. Their squad for the ODI series was more conservative than many expected, influenced perhaps by the 3-1 Test series victory against India which removed their appetite for change. They seem determination to plan for the challenge ahead in Australia and New Zealand with the same captain, Alastair Cook, not known for rapid scoring at the top of the order, and a phalanx of fast bowlers to utilise the two white balls.
That has brought cries of protest from Graeme Swann, a celebrated England player of recent vintage, and Michael Vaughan, a former captain who is treading the path of another former Yorkshire and England batsman, Geoffrey Boycott, in his appetite for straight talking. Both chimed that Cook should have stood down in favour of younger batsmen with a greater capacity for power hitting.
England’s ODI summer has become increasingly dogged by bad weather. The Bristol washout meant that the first ODI of the latter part of the summer was washed out for the third successive year. Headingley and Cardiff have also suffered.