Here comes India's first competitive match of the tournament, and it's against a team that was saying a lot of things before they got whipped by Australia. England still doesn't know what its strongest side is, and what their order should be, and maybe that's preventing them from being as good as they're capable of being. The Castrol Index doesn't rate England's chances too highly, and neither do I, going by their record in India on recent tours (5-0 and 5-1 before that).
India's batting line-up is in superb form, racking up 360 against New Zealand in the practice game and then 370 in the World Cup opener against Bangladesh, but then they haven't had to play a strong bowling attack. Broad, Anderson and Bresnan can blow holes in any line-up when they are on song - but they don't seem to be, in conditions that don't favor them - you only need to know how the Netherlands handled them as proof. Graeme Swann bowled well, however, and he's always a threat - England will consider bringing in Michael Yardy or even James Tredwell for Bresnan. They shouldn't - they aren't likely to be better than an open buffet.
For India, making a big total will hinge on at least one batsmen batting through the innings - if more than one does, it's the game in the bag. Sehwag (now fit) seems determined to do so, we know Sachin can, and Gambhir and Kohli were always inclined to do so. My pick, however, is Yuvraj Singh. He has an excellent record against England (1129 runs at 53.76, 3x100 and 5x50, High 138*, SR 100.62) and he's overdue a big innings anyway.
Our bowling, as always, will be a concern - if Pieterson takes a liking to it and gets going, he could be very dangerous indeed. Before getting himself out, that is. The good thing is, Sreesanth's "I-want-to-show-you-how-bad-I-am" performance against Bangladesh means he is probably going to be dropped. And for some reason, you know what sounds really good to me? Ashish Nehra. Against England. In a World Cup. I don't know why.
Right. So if we're picking another spinner, I'd go with Chawla, just because I feel like. I'm sure that's how Dhoni's captaincy works anyway. If we're batting first, I think we'll be all right. Batting second, Kohli will be super-crucial, as he has been in our chases. When England bat, get Strauss and Trott out quick, the rest will fall into place.
Ideal line-ups (for me):
India: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (c)(wk), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel.
England: Andrew Strauss (c), Kevin Pieterson, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Tim Bresnan, James Anderson.
Official-looking prediction: India to win easily. Yuvraj and Munaf Patel will be key players. Likewise, Bell and Bopara for England.