Millennium Post

India face Test of pride

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 on Thursday. 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 VCA Stadium in Jamtha.

Under-performing senior players in the Indian line-up, including skipper MS 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 after India's spineless displays at Wankhede Stadium and Eden Gardens. It would need a monumental display of grit and determination from several below-par players if India are to bounce back from this dismal situation and prevent England from walking off with their first Test series win in India in 28 years.

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. Indian openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have been pretty casual in their approach thus far, in stark contrast to the grinding efforts of rival skipper Alastair Cook, England's top batsman in the series, and rookie Nick Compton, who has slowly and steadily found his feet after a nervous debut in Ahmedabad's opening Test.

The middle order has been pathetic with only Cheteshwar Pujara showing spunk in the first two Tests before going off the boil. Tendulkar, in the autumn of his glorious career, has looked a pale shadow of his former self, garnering just 110 runs in five innings thus far. 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, an indication of the malaise afflicting the team. Dhoni has been poor with the bat and behind the stumps too, with just a lone half century in the previous game to crow about. 

To give an impetus to the non-performing middle order, the Indian selectors have chopped under-performing Yuvraj Singh from the squad and brought in the in-form Ravindra Jadeja and the Saurashtra all-rounder is almost certain to make his Test debut.

The 24-year-old, who has played 58 ODIs, comes into the do-or-die encounter on the strength of his national record that includes a third triple hundred in first class cricket against a weak Railways attack on the shirtfront wicket at Rajkot and would find the cauldron of Test cricket a different kettle to master. 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.

Jadeja can certainly complement the style of Ojha and the off-spin of R Ashwin, who has not looked the part of a Test bowler except in the closing stages of the Kolkata game when he concentrated on sticking to a correct line and limiting his variations to the minimum. 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.
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