A few metres away from the Eden Gardens’ main entrance, armed with a pen and an autograph book, a kid took on a cop with the fierce sense of commitment that marks Alastair Cook’s deeds at the crease.

The policeman, softly though, shooed off the young cricket enthusiast with a piece of advice, “Indian team pore practice korbe (Indians will practice later).” The response was sharp, “hara dol ke chai na (Who wants losers?), amaar Monty ke chaai (I must get Monty (Panesar).”

The young lad had declared his preference in no uncertain terms. It probably reflects the growing disillusionment of the cricket fan with a team that has forgotten consistency in Test cricket.

Incessant debate

The crushing defeat at Mumbai has led to incessant debate concerning the strength and character of the team. The pitch, not the players, has elicited observations from all and sundry with the curator and the ground staff here under severe pressure ahead of the third Test between India and England starting on Wednesday.

Will it help the spinners, or the seamers? There was no word forthcoming from the ground staff whether the pitch would have decent bounce, a most essential factor for producing good cricket.

India is a team in transition, trying to identify its forces for the future after the retirement of Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman.

True, Sachin Tendulkar is still around, so also Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, but the team sorely lacks depth in all departments.

That Zaheer continues to command a place speaks of the bench strength, while Harbhajan, who might make way for Ishant Sharma, appears woefully short of confidence. The spring is missing from his stride even as he seeks redemption at a venue that once established his place in the Indian team.

Tendulkar remains the cynosure of all, his own team and the opposition too.

Colossal contribution

His colossal contribution to Indian cricket has been mercilessly dissected in recent times. Every time he falls cheaply, the demand for his exclusion gains momentum. The murmurs have grown into public discussions with the batting icon facing the biggest challenge of his career. To write off Tendulkar at this stage would be unkind to a most fascinating sportsman. Tendulkar has reached a stage where he needs to justify his selection regardless of the fact that there are hardly any gifted youngsters pushing him. Of course, at some time soon, he would himself take a call on when to pack his kit.

A century from Tendulkar at this majestic venue may silence his detractors for a while. It is quite possible he may shut them up, but the greater issue here is not Tendulkar’s success but India’s ability to hit back against an inspired opposition.

England has understood its limitations well and adapted accordingly to stay afloat in the series after the loss at Ahmedabad.

Pressure has come with the job for Tendulkar; pressure when he scores and pressure when he does not. He dare not fail.

Now that Ricky Ponting has retired, there is greater pressure, wholly extraneous, on Tendulkar to excel.

It is hard to understand the connection between Ponting quitting and Tendulkar continuing. Both play for different teams, perform dissimilar roles and carry contrasting responsibilities to the crease.

The match will have a 9 a.m. start and the English camp is not perturbed. The ball shall wobble at the start and in the last session, but skipper Alastair Cook is calm.

Ian Bell’s return and the likelihood of Steven Finn replacing Stuart Broad make England an effective combination.

The team is high on confidence and keen on repeating the Mumbai victory.

The world loves a winner… It made for a pleasant experience to watch the kid grab a few autographs with the cop looking on with a smile….

The teams (from):

India: M.S. Dhoni (capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, R. Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashoke Dinda, Murali Vijay, Ishant Sharma.

England: Alastair Cook (capt.), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar, Tim Bresnan, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Graham Onions, Samit Patel, Steven Finn, Stuart Meaker.

Umpires: R. Tucker and K. Dharmasena; Third umpire: V. Kulkarni; Match Referee: Jeff Crowe.

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