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Preview: Listless India look to level series against England at Nagpur

Indian players

Indian players need to play out of their skins to make a comeback from the 1-2 deficit in the ongoing series against England © PTI

Nagpur: Dec 12, 2012

India’s under-fire cricketers will have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, after back-to-back defeats to England, and compete on equal footing against a confident England in the perform-or-perish fourth and final Test commencing at Nagpur 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 the VCA Stadium in Jamtha.

Under-performing senior players in the Indian line-up, including skipper Mahendra Singh 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 the Wankhede Stadium and the 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 and his head is on the chopping block more than anyone else’s even though he has been defiant in his statements.

“The easiest thing for me to say right now is to say, ‘I quit captaincy’ and be a part of the side. But that’s like running away from the responsibility. Of course there are others who will decide. There is BCCI and the administrative people who also want to look into that”, he had said after India were handed a seven-wicket defeat at the Eden Gardens.

However, it is difficult to see him retained at the helm if India lose the series after having led the country to two massive defeats recently — the 0-4 whitewashes in England and Australia.

To give an impetus to the non-performing middle order, the Indian selectors have chopped the 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.

Teams:

India (Probable): Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Parwinder Awana, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma

England (Probable): Alastair Cook (c), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wk), Samit Patel, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Steve Finn, James Anderson.

Time: 09.30 local (09.30 IST)

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