Broad pays the price as confident England seek to turn up heat on India
22:30 GMT, 3 December 2012
What a difference a week makes. England, who had reached the point where they had begun questioning their own methods, go into Wednesday’s third Test here with one of the greatest series wins in modern times suddenly within their reach.
Now, after the extraordinary turnaround in Mumbai, it is India who have the problems, not an England side who arrested the decline which had seen them lose seven Tests this year with a stunning 10-wicket second Test success.
Serious questions would have been asked of England had they crashed to defeat No 8 in Mumbai. Certainly, it is unlikely they would have felt able to announce a big change to their coaching structure in the aftermath of another reverse. It would have looked as though Andy Flower was being demoted.
Back in the frame: Steven Finn is set to face India in the third Test
New row with BCCI
The ECB have said sorry to the Indian board after failing to get official clearance for the England Performance Programme’s trip to India.
Although arrangements for the visit were put in place back in the summer, they were not rubber-stamped at board level.
The Indians were irritated by the fact that the EPP’s game in Navi Mumbai provided Steven Finn with a chance to prove his fitness ahead of the third Test. The BCCI have accepted England’s apology.
Instead, England have been imbued with such confidence that they are set to make at least two changes to a winning team, acutely aware that they will need contributions from more than just the four outstanding performers from Mumbai if they are to make history here and in Nagpur.
Steven Finn declared himself fit and ready to make his first appearance of the series and that will surely mean England will drop their vice-captain and one of their most highly regarded players, Stuart Broad, for the first time in four years. Figures of 36-2-157-0 for the series have left Broad as vulnerable as at any time in his career.
David Saker, the England fast bowling coach, paved the way for the move with a well-directed verbal boot up Broad’s backside after Mumbai and the Twenty20 captain’s subsequent tweet suggesting he had been ill for a week was at odds with England’s insistence that he was fit going into the Test.
Clearly England believe Broad has not helped himself on this tour and they will not hesitate to bring in the extra pace and bounce of Finn, who had been earmarked for a leading role in their attack in India before he hurt his thigh on the very first day of the tour having bowled just four overs.
‘It was majorly disappointing,’ said
Finn after bowling six overs in practice at Eden Gardens. ‘I’ve never
had that feeling of something popping before. It was alien to me, scary
and frustrating. I had a great chance of playing in that first Test but
it wasn’t to be. Now I’ve had a bit of time out, had a good work-out
with the Performance Squad and I feel fresh. I’m in a good place.’
Dropped: Stuart Broad has paid the price for his poor performances
Finn talked like a man who was expecting to play when he reflected on England’s seismic victory secured at the Wankhede Stadium to level this four-match series without him. ‘It was difficult knowing the lads were there in Mumbai celebrating a win, being together, and I was on the other side of town with the Performance Squad watching it on TV. It was a strange feeling and one I didn’t particularly enjoy so I’m keen to get in on the act if that happens again.’
Ian Bell, another man apparently refreshed by time away, in his case to be with his baby son, will also return, with the only question being whether it is Jonny Bairstow or Samit Patel who makes way. Logic would suggest that Bairstow, who is still to convince against top-quality spin, should stand down but it is not a foregone conclusion, particularly as Patel’s bowling is less important now that Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar are the first names on the teamsheet.
England’s tinkering from a position of strength contrasts starkly with the pressure being felt by MS Dhoni, whose demand for another pitch that turns from ball one has been met with firm resistance from the Eden Gardens curator.
Prabir Mukharjee, the 83-year-old
groundsman, is clearly a man who likes to do things his way, but it
remains to be seen whether his determination to prepare a true surface
against the India captain’s wishes will help or hinder England. It is
usually that sort of low, slow, worn pitches in this part of the world
that bamboozles them.
Under pressure: Sachin Tendulkar
What is beyond doubt is that India’s batsmen, with the exception of their new star Cheteshwar Pujara and one of their old ones in Virender Sehwag, need a score, not least the struggling megastar that is Sachin Tendulkar.
One legend of the game in Ricky Ponting bowed out on Monday and all of India is now speculating as to whether the Little Master will soon follow.
It has been suggested here that Tendulkar has told the Indian selectors that it is up to them when he finally stands down, in which case it will take a very brave man to tap him on the shoulder and say: ‘It’s time to go now Sachin, old son.’
More likely, the leading runscorer in the history of Test cricket will be allowed to go on for a little while yet, at least until he has made eight more appearances to reach the magical 200 mark. Sachin is known to love a landmark.
To justify that he needs to fare better against Panesar, who dismissed him in Mumbai both with a ball that turned square and one that did not turn at all. The latest instalment of the duel between Panesar and his hero will be a compelling one.
As indeed should be the whole Test. England are due to win a toss and will surely bat first if they do. The pressure would really be on Dhoni if England can make the running with big first-innings runs again.
Groundsman in the spotlight
Prabir Mukherjee , the 83-year-old groundsman at Eden Gardens, has become
the unlikely focus of attention in the build-up to tomorrow’s third Test after he branded as ‘immoral’ India captain MS Dhoni’s request for a pitch which turns from ball one.
Mukherjee threatened to take a month’s leave after the Indian board sent a member
of their grounds and pitches committee to Kolkata to ‘assist’ with preparation.
‘Why does Dhoni want a square turner on the first day’ he asked. ‘Then why are you
selling tickets for five days It’s immoral.’
He has barely been out of the headlines over the last few days, laughing off suggestions that the BCCI could prevent him from speaking to the media.
‘I am at the fag end of my life,’ he said. ‘They are threatening to suspend me if I talk about the pitch. That is the treatment I get after more than two decades of service.’
And Mukherjee has promised a pitch of pace and bounce, which he says will assist Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar as England look to repeat the famous victory at Mumbai.
That could further infuriate Dhoni, who called the Eden Gardens strip an ‘ugly
wicket’ when England played a one-day international here in October 2011.