Down in the dumps after back-to-back defeats, India’s under-fire cricketers will have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and compete on equal footing against a confident England in the perform-or-perish fourth and final Test commencing here today.
Trailing the buoyant visitors 1-2 in the rubber after being outplayed in the second and third encounters at Mumbai and Kolkata, the home players need to sort themselves out on several fronts to level the series at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha.
Under-performing senior players in the Indian line-up, including skipper Mehendra Singh Dhoni and veteran batsman Sachin Tendulkar, are under severe pressure not only to lift the side with supreme personal efforts but also to save their careers.
Need to buck up
The home team needs to buck up not just in one department but in several to stop the visiting team from running away triumphant for the first time since David Gower’s outfit in 1984-85. Openers Gambhir and Sehwag have been pretty casual in their approach thus far, in stark contrast to the grinding efforts of rival skipper Alastair Cook and rookie Nick Compton.
The middle order has been pathetic with only Cheteshwar Pujara showing spunk in the first two Tests before going off the boil. Someone like Virat Kohli, who was the best batsman for the team in Australia, has fallen away so much to casual shots that he has mustered a pathetic 85 runs in six innings.
To give an impetus to the non-performing middle order, the Indian selectors have chopped the under-performing Yuvraj Singh and brought in Ravindra Jadeja. Where he can make some difference is not only in the number of overs he would bowl his left-arm spin but also at the pace at which he delivers, slightly faster than Pragyan Ojha who has been the standout player with the ball for the team — 19 wickets in three games at a decent average of 25.
The other spinner, who has been included in the squad at the expense of Harbhajan Singh, leg spinner Piyush Chawla would bring in some more variety if picked in the eleven. India have also dropped the out-of-form Zaheer Khan and replaced him with Delhi pacer Parwinder Awana.
Few problems for England
England are having very few problems and are expected to retain the winning eleven for the series finale. They can sit on the 2-1 lead by playing for a draw here.
While Cook has led from the front, the other leading batsmen have rallied around him, with top batsman Kevin Pietersen playing the defining knock in Mumbai and Matt Prior and Compton playing the supporting roles. The bowlers too have delivered and it is not only the spinners, the fast bowlers have also proved their worth by using reverse swing to telling effect in Kolkata.
A series victory here for England would be the icing on the cake for their mixed show in 2012 during which they lost to South Africa at home and went down without a whimper against Pakistan in the UAE.PTI