High-voltage contest on cards - The New Indian Express

High-voltage contest on cards

Published: 05th December 2012 11:02 AM

Last Updated: 05th December 2012 11:02 AM

The behaviour of the hallowed pitch of the Eden Gardens may become a bigger issue than the performance of the players when a desperate India take on a psychologically stronger England in the third Test beginning here on Wednesday. The start of the match, however, will bring an end to eight-day-long drama that started with beleaguered India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni demanding another square turner despite the hosts suffering a 10-wicket drubbing in the second Test at Mumbai and Cricket Association of Bengal’s veteran curator Prabir Mukherjee rejecting it disdainfully.

Irrespective of whatever treatment a curator gives to the 22-yard Eden strip, the pitch has its way and it favours players who have the ability to cope with its behaviour. Over the years, the Eden pitch has helped pacers early on and spinners from third day onwards. It has always favoured the home team and disappointed the opposition for the last 35 years. India’s last two outings here – against South Africa in 2010 and West Indies in 2011 – have delivered innings victories for the hosts. On both occasions, India posted a total in excess of 600 runs. Dhoni would take pride from those memories, having scored a century in both to help India emerge winners.

England last won a Test match here in 1977 when Tony Greig hit an unbeaten 103. Out of their last three Tests here, they lost one (in 1993) and drew two. India, hence, have greater advantage. Dhoni and his team should also expect vociferous support from a sizeable crowd if they play well.

On the other hand, England have some psychological advantage following their victory in Mumbai. Skipper Alastair Cook and his teammates would now strive to maintain the winning momentum. Even a draw should make them happy as it would keep their chances alive in the series.

As regards the composition of the team, both the teams are all set to make at least one change each. Knowing it fully well that they are not going to get a square turner here, Team India may revert back to two-plus-two spin-pace bowling combination. Offie Harbhajan Singh, who was set to play his 100th Test here and who has taken 46 wickets at the Eden, would be replaced by pacer Ishant Sharma or Ashok Dinda. Bhajji is down with flu.

Under heavy pressure because of his abysmal (15.30) average in the last 10 Test innings and because Aussie great Ricky Ponting has set the example by hanging up his boots, Sachin Tendulkar should prove that he is in the team not because of his reputation but because of his performance. It would be wonderful if the Master Blaster settles everything by slamming a sparkling century here and giving a clear indication about his plan to call it quits.

On the other hand, England may effect two changes in their playing eleven. A fit-again pace bowler Steven Finn, who missed the first two Tests due to a sprained thigh muscle, is most likely to replace vice-captain Stuart Broad.  Middle-order batsman Ian Bell, too, is likely to make a return after missing the Mumbai game.

Though no player of the present England team has played a Test match here, that does not bother the visitors considering the tremendous performance of skipper Cook, Kevin Pietersen and spinners Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann so far. Overall, the third Test is expected to dish out an exciting contest. And the side that plays better cricket will win. The cricket crazy City of Joy does not want a dull draw.

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