Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Preview, India versus England, 3rd Test, Eden Gardens

The more you watch Test Cricket the more you believe in the saying that the only certainty within it is its glorious uncertainty. Mumbai told this tale with an England side that was seen by all to be dead and ready for burial finding the mettle to not only rise to stand eye to eye with India but then remarkably maul the hosts to even the series.

The beauty of this result was it made you question whether it was a freak result to be passed off or a precursor to a reality for the rest of the series. Which will see the cracks in the Indian line up being fully exposed by an English Team that has found its feet and is starting to rediscover its past might.

Lets hope that truth in the play is found somewhere in the middle meaning the rest of the series will be edge of your seat viewing

The Pitch

Like Sands through the hour glass these are the Days of our Lives..........

LOL...what a Soap Opera with the lead up to the Test being headlined by the Head Curator at Eden Gardens Prabir Mukherjee labelling Dhoni's calls for a rank turner as being 'immoral' and refusing to partake in such shenanigans. 


This wonderful drama coloured further when despite a gag order, the feisty Mukherjee seemed to leak information to the British Press that the pitch will indeed spin, but also will be supportive of pace and bounce

A description that makes it appear very similar to the Mumbai second Test strip.
Likely Teams

India 
The Indians have retained the same Squad from the humiliating 2nd Test loss, which could either be commended as a showing of faith in the players selected or condemned as denial over issues within that selected group.

Only time will tell that truth

My point of view in the fall out from the 2nd Test is that India is in a fair bit of denial over issues that have cost them already and might cost them further. Pure and simple Yuvraj Singh is not a Test batsmans bootlace and needed to go. Many are calling for Sachin Tendulkars head too, but you cannot show a true Master such disrespect with him still having the pedigree to rise. Then his meaning to the rest of the group you cannot put a value on.

The bowling from a balance point of view was dealt a bitter blow by the loss of Umesh Yadav, and then made worse by a daft choice to play 3 spinners and the third spinner being Harbhajan Singh who has done nothing to justify his spot. A wiser selection if India wanted 3 spinner was to add variety in the guise of a leg spinner like Amit Mishra.

Bhahji will be discarded for this Test with a seamer coming in with the choice being between the youth talents of Local Ashok Dinda or the tale of endless frustration known as Ishant Sharma.

Dinda should get the nod, but you can see India giving ishant yet another go....

Likely Team

Gambhir, Sehwag, Pujara, Sachin, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Ashwin, Zaheer, Ishant, Ojha

England 

The English have essentially three decisions to make:

1, Do they show respect in the same 11 that won so brilliantly in Mumbai

2, Do they drop Stuart Broad who has gone wicketless in this series with the fit Steve Finn coming in

3, Will Ian Bell, who missed the 2nd Test on Paternity leave be re included keeping in mind his key stone capers against spin, and if yes who goes out?

I think there will be changes with Steve Finn having to come in for Broad, who has looked as useful as a water proof tea bag as well as Ian Bell's seniority meaning Bairstow will make way for him

Leaving the Team as follows

Compton, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Patel, Prior, Swann, Anderson, Finn, Panesar

The Keys to Win 

India 

Pure and simple too much has been left to too few 

The batting has essentially been carried by a 7 test veteran in Cheteshwar Pujara which is matched by the bowling burden falling on Pragyan Ojha

Starting with the batting, the middle order comprising of the 3-7 batsmen have been exposed as being the soft under belly of the Team with them scoring 210 runs for the series at an average of 17.5

This huge crack in the line up was wall papered over by Virender Sehwag blitzing in the 1st Test win to aide in Pujara's series long mastery. But the reality was not so kind in the second Test with Pujara being the Lone Ranger and the rest being blown away by the English spin assault.

To have a chance in this Test the batting needs to lift!

Promisingly in this quest was the return to form of Gautam Gambhir in the 2nd innings in Mumbai with him reminding us all of his high class batting pedigree. Gambhir and Sehwag at the top will be crucial in the starts they give to not only make a mark on the game, but to prop up the fragile middle order with the pressure being taken off them.

As for the middle order, it appears like an accident waiting to happen, but all have ability and this is the game where all bets are off and they need to lift. My view of them is as follows

Sachin Tendulkar- One of the greatest ever but a shadow of his former self

Virat Kohli- One of the most talented players going around, but lacks temperament as seen in his concentration lapses that have lead to soft dismissals throughout the series

Yuvraj Singh- Proven failure in the Test arena, but given chance after chance to prove once again he is not Test class

M.S.Dhoni- Like a school yard bully in regards to being awesome against the weaker kids, but a non event against the big boys

Away from the batting, the bowling is a huge concern as well.

It was dealt an unspoken blow with the loss of Umesh Yadav who looked like he could have had a real say in the series. In the wake of his loss all has depended on Pragyan Ohja, who has been truly stellar with his beautifully crafted left arm spin.

He desperately needs support with his spin twin in Ravichandran Ashwin being very disappointing so far in the series. He has been lacking in his line and length and then crucially in his temperament with him being bereft of the patience that is behind success in this attritional forum of the game. Rather than relentlessly probe with his stock ball with a bit of variety here and there he has served up a buffet of liquorice all sorts that the English have devoured

The lad has real talent too, but he needs to show that in this game with a more mature display 

Spin will take centre stage, but pace has a role to play as well

The loss of Umesh was such a huge one for he gave that strike presence to India, but in his absence it has exposed Zaheer Khan. In the respect that the wily veteran in the twilight of his career is no longer that strike weapon he once was with him assuming a more defensive holding role in the bowling unit.

Whether it be Ishant Sharma or debutante Ashok Dinda who comes in they need to fill that enormous breach left by Yadav

England 

Many remarked that if Monty Panesar played in the 1st Test that England could be 2 up in the series. 

I think that is fanciful thinking, but it does point to the profound effect Monty had in the 2nd Test win and how much of a threat he will be going forward

The key point learnt from that second Test was if the series does increasingly become about spin then the English spinners are far superior to their Indian counterparts. Not only in skill, but more crucially in their experience and know how in the Test arena

In this reality it means this match and ultimately the series will depend on England's batting being adequate against the spin. Alastair Cook continuing being a combination of the irresistible force and the immovable object will be key in all this but he needs support 

Promisingly Kevin Pietersen put in a true master class that had all in stunned awe making you get the impression that he is on a real mission to leave a decisive mark on this series to make up for his past indiscretions.

If he keeps up his form, put down your glasses for the series is over
Jonathan Trott is the man that could really tilt things in England's favour if he could re-find the form that saw him averaging 60+ in his first 20 Tests. He seems to be caught in the negative mindset that has plagued the Teams batting against spin with him being a certainty to LBW

He needs to take a page out of the book of Cook and Nick Compton's book from the 2nd Test with both forcing themselves to be more proactive as symbolised by them hitting the spinners over the top. Not only setting a more positive mindset, but also breaking up the fields

Taking this mindset a step further it also preyed on a definite weakness in the Indian Team in M.S.Dhoni's Captaincy. Whose mindset is always obsessed with the mentality from the shorter forms of the game where saving runs takes precedent over taking wickets. Meaning a few boundaries will see fields pushed back and gaps a plenty to dab a single here and sneak a 2 there.

It is obvious that the English see Dhoni as a obvious weakness to exploit and as a collective them achieving this to the hilt will go a long way to winning this Test

Lastly, the English must lift in the field with their catching particular behind the wickets in the slips being very substandard and costly in this series

Prediction
After the 2nd Test, I just got the feeling that India is a Team there for the taking with their Team having weaknesses in all departments that England has the capabilities to fully victimise.

I expect that to be the reality here with England winning

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