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India needs a healthy dose of self-belief

Vijay Lokapally
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CRICKET / Come Thursday morning, it will be all about winning the first session, says Swann

IRONING OUT THE FLAWS:Ishant Sharma had an extended session of bowling at the nets on Tuesday ahead of the crucial fourth Test against England starting on Thursday.— Photo: K.R. Deepak
IRONING OUT THE FLAWS:Ishant Sharma had an extended session of bowling at the nets on Tuesday ahead of the crucial fourth Test against England starting on Thursday.— Photo: K.R. Deepak

Cricket is priority at Jamtha, on the outskirts of this growing city. This excellent venue promises to set up a fierce contest from Thursday, on which India must win to square the series.

The curator, former Vidarbha all-rounder Praveen Hingnikar, has been gagged by the Board. He would officially speak on the fifth day.

Normally a good pitch

The pitch here is normally a good one. There is bounce and that ensures good cricket.

England off-spinner Graeme Swann, with those sensational dismissals of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar in the last Test, was realistic when asked about the pitch.

“It doesn’t matter what you believe. The pitch is going to be the pitch whatever happens on Thursday morning.

“I am sure the management and coach will look at it and they will assess it. We play on it whatever comes on,” was his measured response.

But the playing surface remains a point of interest for both camps.

The surface is dry but reflects cracks beneath. The bounce should give the bowlers an advantage even though it is just the pitch that would thrill stroke-players like Virat Kohli, Sehwag and Tendulkar, who like the ball to come on to the bat.

Tendulkar made a quick dash to the middle, practiced his routine shadow play on the pitch, and must have drawn up his battle plans. Mahendra Singh Dhoni later took a tour of the pitch along with Hingnikar.

Ishant Sharma spent time with the bowling coach, working on his in-swinger and length ball.

The fast bowlers has strayed wildly, and landed short, and was punished for his errors. It is time Ishant delivered, especially after winning the faith of the selectors.

Swann spoke of dominating the first session.

“Whatever the pitch is, we have to try and win the game. So come Thursday morning it will be about winning the first session, something which we have managed to do in the last two Test matches and it is why we have gone on to win the match.”

“We have really tried to embrace India and embrace the series. We believe we can win it and I am not sure that has always been the case. It may have been.

“I have only been on one Test tour before but there certainly seems to be more belief in this group right from the outset.”

The England off-spinner put things in perspective.

“What I said at the start of the tour is that if you expect just the spinners to win the game for you, you are doomed. And I stand by it completely because it is a team effort.

“Without the monumental performances of (Alastair) Cook, (Kevin) Pietersen and (Jonathan) Trott (in the last game) we would not have been 2-1 up.” The emphasis clearly is on a collective assault.

Nothing wrong

There was nothing wrong in the home captain demanding a pitch of his choice, according to Swann.

“It is not strange for a home team to ask for a wicket to suit their team. We do that in England because we want it to suit our bowlers.

India also believes it can win but has not been able to identify the flaws and plug them in time.

Belief is what the Indians have lacked immensely, losing the contest in the dressing room itself.

The stint that Ishant had on Tuesday was an indication of the desperation that the team is experiencing.

Virat concentrated on leaving the deliveries more than play them straight at nets.

The one-armed Gurudas Raut, a 25-year-old seamer, at the India nets attracted the attention of many.

Handicapped at birth, he has chased his dream to play cricket.

He impressed Kohli, Dhoni and Sehwag when he bowled to them during the World Cup nets here.

“I bowled Dhoni with an inswing,” Raut remembered with pride. His spirit is an epic tale of inspiration. The Indian team would do well to borrow some of it for their fight at Jamtha.

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