Nagpur: Perform or perish… To some it may sound an exaggeration, but the current scenario is almost as serious as it gets.
The overseas embarrassment had hurt our pride. But the humiliation at home, that the team is being subjected to at present, is too much to go unnoticed.
So, the case is simple… Either Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Co. should win the fourth Test, that begins from Thursday, here, at the VCA Stadium, and restore some of the lost pride or the calls for many a head in the team will only get louder.
Questions have been raised over Dhoni’s captaincy in the wake of the back-to-back reversals at the Wankhede and at the Eden. And these doubts would only gather further momentum if there’s yet another disappointing show.
Besides, Dhoni hasn’t been consistent with the bat as well.
Precisely, Team India to a great extent, have themselves to blame for the present circumstances, which even a month ago wasn’t this bad. Giving the visitors back the soul-destroying 4-0 hammering, which they had inflicted over India last year at home, could well have been a possibility after the Ahmedabad win. But such has been the failure, that such thoughts would now seem to be pre-historic.
India seemed to have completely overlooked the fact that Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar are quality bowlers… That they are spinners and they too know how to utilise turners.
This attitude not only proved costly, but also led to a huge loss of face as India were annihilated in Mumbai, on a square-turner that was supposed to be the Englishmen’s graveyard.
At the Eden, they made a mess of what could have been an ideal platform to exert pressure over their opponents, who in turn, ensured to capitalise on all the errors India committed.
However, as a first step for recovery, changes have been rung in. Left-hander Ravindra Jadeja may deserve a chance, thanks to his exploits at the domestic circuit this season. One cannot say the same about leg-spinner Piyush Chawla though. Medium pacer Parvinder Awana’s case is a bit tricky.
Given the nature of the pitch here — which is extremely dry and, strangely, white-coloured — India need to assess whether they should go in with the traditional two-pacers and two-spinners combination, or to bring in Chawla as the third spinner alongside Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. Going in with two pacers would mean that either Awana or Ashok Dinda would be making a debut, with Ishant Sharma likely to spearhead the attack.
Talking about the batting line-up, Ajinkya Rahane spent quite some time at the nets alongside the other key batsmen.
But one is not sure whether he will find a place in the playing XI — at the No.6 slot. That’s because, with the pitch threatening to assist spinners, Dhoni may well opt for Jadeja at the No.6 position as the all-rounder’s spin may come in handy.
In a nutshell, it all depends on forming an ideal combination. After all, the Dhonis have to stop England from winning a Test series in India, something which the Englishmen haven’t done in 28 long years.
Talking about England, they have been playing the waiting game pretty successfully.
One should admit the fact that the present England side have the character to deal with adversities. But that doesn’t mean that there are no few flaws in their team.
Barring Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior, other English batsmen are yet to strike gold. Of course, Jonathan Trott made a useful 87 in the previous Test. But coming in to bat after the openers added close to 200, and walking in when only a few runs have been put on board, are two entirely different situations.
England’s bowling department hasn’t been a concern of late, but pacer Steven Finn’s back injury seems to create a sense of discomfort in the English camp.
With Stuart Broad already ruled out because of a bruised heel, Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions remain as the options to share the new ball with James Anderson if Finn fails the fitness test on Thursday morning.
India (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane/Ravindra Jadeja, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha.
England (likely): Alastair Cook, Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn/Tim Bresnan, Monty Panesar.
Umpires: Kumara Dharmasena and Rod Tucker. TV: S. Ravi
Match starts: 9.30 am