The wheel of fortune is spinning downwards for the Indian team since their defeat in the second Test at Mumbai, and that has made the third Test, starting Wednesday at Kolkata, all the more intriguing. The tables have turned in the blink of an eye. The series began with India eyeing a whitewash as their revenge against an English team which clobbered them in all four Tests last year when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men toured England.
When India thumped the tourists in the first Test at Ahmedabad, it seemed the Indians were on course for sweet revenge. The way English batsmen were foxed by India spin duo Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin, it seemed there was no way Alastair Cook's men could improve their game over the remainder of the series. However, that’s a thing of the past now.
England’s series-levelling win at the Wankhede has turned out to be a deux ex machina for them. They way the great Indian batsmen danced to the tunes of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann was unbelievable. There have been very few such occasions when the Indians, fed on spin, looked as clueless and helpless. Indeed, the tables have turned, haven’t they?
With the series tied at 1-1, there is a lot at stake as both teams head to Kolkata's Eden Gardens.
And now it’s England who are going into the match at the Eden Gardens as favourites. The thing that has hogged the limelight in the lead up to the match is the contretemps between Dhoni and Eden curator Prabir Mukherjee over the nature of the pitch. Dhoni demanded a rank turner, which octogenarian Mukherjee termed as “immoral”. Things seems to have been sorted with Dhoni having his way as the pitch is expected to turn from day one, and that means it will be a battle between spinners on the both sides.
Having said that, it’s India that have some really uncomfortable questions to answer. Their collapse in the second innings at the Wankhede is inexplicable. Sachin Tendulkar’s form remains a serious issue. Whatever people may say, Ricky Ponting’s retirement will have put pressure on him. It’s clear his days are numbered as an international cricketer, but he is still capable of playing a big innings to say goodbye on a high. India will sure go with the same batting order as the one in the last match but there are a few batsmen who need to analyse their batting approach.
Dhoni is one of them. His record against quality bowlers is not what he would’ve wanted it to be. Gautam Gambhir, who is fighting for a place in the side, batted selfishly in India’s second innings in Mumbai when quick runs were the need of the hour.
There’s not going to be much chopping and changing in the Indian squad, and Harbhajan Singh is likely to be the only change. After a bad show in Mumbai, he is a cinch to be replaced by fast bowler Ishant Sharma. Ashok Dinda, who has replaced the injured Umesh Yadav for the match, is also in content_cnion but it’s Ishant who’s likely to get the nod by way of his experience.
England too are compelled to make a couple of changes. With the news that gangling fast bowler Steven Finn is back to his full fitness, the team’s vice-captain Stuart Broad, who is in awfully bad form, may get the boot. Also, Ian Bell, who didn’t feature in the Mumbai Test as he flew back to England to attend the birth of his first child, is back now and that means Jonny Bairstow, another English failure at Mumbai, will have to make way for one of England’s most senior batsmen. With the Australia-South Africa Test series getting over on Monday, now all eyes across the world are set on this high-profile match. It can’t get better than this, can it?
India: 1 Virender Sehwag 2 Gautam Gambhir 3 Cheteshwar Pujara 4 Sachin Tendulkar 5 Virat Kohli 6 Yuvraj Singh 7 MS Dhoni (c/wk) 8 Zaheer Khan 9 Ravichandran Ashwin 10 Pragyan Ojha 11 Ishant Sharma
England: 1 Alastair Cook (c) 2 Nick Compton 3 Jonathan Trott 4 Kevin Pietersen 5 Ian Bell 6 Matt Prior 7 Samit Patel 8 Steven Finn 9 James Anderson 10 Monty Panesar 11 Graeme Swann