Tag Archives: nagpur

Kevin Pietersen to get full England central contract after performances in India

Happy landing: Textgate is history as England reward model pro Pietersen with full central contract

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UPDATED:

22:33 GMT, 18 December 2012

Kevin Pietersen’s successful
‘reintegration’ into the England team will be officially acknowledged
with the award of his full central contract at the end of this historic
tour of India.

One of the most acrimonious episodes in modern English cricket, which began when Sportsmail revealed
that Pietersen had sent ‘provocative’ texts to South African opponents
about Andrew Strauss last summer, will come to an official end when the
four-month trial contract he was handed ahead of this trip is extended
to a full year.

The 32-year-old batsman has been a
model professional throughout England’s 2-1 series win, their first in
India for 28 years, vindicating the decision to add him to the squad
both with his behaviour and the superlative century in Mumbai which
transformed the series.

No more baggage: Kevin Pietersen after touching down at Heathrow

No more baggage: Kevin Pietersen after touching down at Heathrow

And Andy Flower, who was badly hurt
by the wearying saga last summer, confirmed that Pietersen has mended
all the bridges during one of the most successful tours in modern
English memory.

‘The contract won’t be a problem,’ said Flower in the aftermath of the drawn final Test in Nagpur.

‘Kevin has been excellent in every
way. We don’t all always get on with people all of the time, any of us
in any walk of life, and everyone has made an effort to make it work.
It’s been really good fun and he should be very proud of the way he’s
operated out here both as an individual and as a player.’

Feelings ran high last summer and
there was no guarantee that a fragile peace-pact would hold in the
demanding environment of India but from the word go here it has been as
though Pietersen never uttered the words: ‘It’s not easy being me.’

Triumphant: Monty Panesar and Alastair Cook

Back home: KP

Triumphant: Monty Panesar (left) and Alastair Cook were at Heathrow along with Kevin Pietersen (right)

Flower added: ‘We did move on from it
as soon as we had our meetings and everyone made a commitment to do so.
I want to continue that moving forward. We want to learn from the past
but we don’t want to keep on revisiting it. He’ll have a little break
over Christmas, like a lot of the guys, and he’ll be back for the
one-day series.’

Flower had a big smile on his face as
he contemplated the scale of the achievement in becoming only the
fourth England side to win a Test series in India and the first from
anywhere since Australia seven years ago.

He had asked, in the aftermath of the
nine-wicket first Test defeat, for his side to be judged at the end of
the series but even he could not have believed that England could win so
gloriously in Mumbai and Kolkata. It is like, as former England batsman
Mark Butcher aptly put it, a football team winning 5-0 in the Nou Camp
against Barcelona and then 4-0 in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid.

Good show: Cook and Panesar were greeted warmly at Terminal 3 at Heathrow

Good show: Cook and Panesar were greeted warmly at Terminal 3 at Heathrow

All smiles: Cook was accompanied by his wife Alice as he pushed his trolley through the terminal

All smiles: Cook was accompanied by his wife Alice as he pushed his trolley through the terminal

‘I work closely with these guys and I
see them in training every day,’ said Flower. ‘I did mean what I said
because I did believe they had improved themselves as players of spin. I
knew some of the work they were doing and we knew the quality of our
spin bowlers — even though we didn’t play one of them in the first Test!
— so I did feel we could win out here.

‘We all know to come back from one
down in these conditions to win a series is a hell of an achievement. I
am very proud of all those guys and I know they will always be able to
look back on this series and be proud of themselves, which is a really
nice position to be in.’

Flower then left for home with the
bulk of the England side who have not stayed here for the two Twenty20
internationals that conclude this leg of the tour. It is another example
of England recognising that they cannot expect their players, and now
coaches, to constantly slog around the world performing in all cricket
in all formats.

Reconciled: Pietersen and Andy Flower chew the fat in Ahmedabad in England's second warm-up game

Reconciled: Pietersen and Andy Flower chew the fat in Ahmedabad in England's second warm-up game

Rotation, strength and conditioning —
call it what you will — is here to stay and if any spectator is unhappy
about it they must blame the administrators who put money before the
product by flooding the calendar.

England took another step towards
protecting their prized assets when they decided to leave Jimmy
Anderson, superb in this series, and Jonathan Trott out of the
five-match one-day series back in India next month. Their places will be
taken by Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler.

Joe Root was also added to the squad for the two Twenty20 internationals that begin here in Pune on Thursday.

Say cheese: The pair smiled for the cameras after touching down in the capital

Say cheese: The pair smiled for the cameras after touching down in the capital

Spinning to victory: This picture of Graeme Swann (right) and Monty Panesar (left) was tweeted by fellow bowler James Anderson

Spinning to victory: This picture of Graeme Swann (right) and Monty Panesar (left) was tweeted by fellow bowler James Anderson

‘I don’t like it being called rest
and I don’t like the word rotation,’ said Flower. ‘The purpose of taking
anyone out of international competition is to maximise their
performance when they do play. If you look at the next couple of years
we must look after certain players, and Jimmy is one of them, otherwise
they will snap. It is our duty to look after them and hopefully that
will mean they will play more cricket for England and help us win more
matches.’

Flower has now changed his job to avoid snapping and will hand over all limited-overs coaching to Ashley Giles in the new year.

Showcasing his talent: Joe Root has another chance to shine on the subcontinent in the T20 series

Showcasing his talent: Joe Root has another chance to shine on the subcontinent in the T20 series

Would he have walked away from
England if his load had not been lightened ‘It never got to that
stage,’ he insisted. ‘Luckily I was communicating with Hugh Morris,
who’s a good man, and we came up with this solution. We don’t know if
this will work but we will try to make sure it does.’

It is certainly a better bet than
risk English cricket losing Flower. The man who has masterminded two
Ashes wins, a World Twenty20 triumph and now, perhaps the best of the
lot, victory over India in the ‘final frontier’ is too important to let
go just yet.

India v England: Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar pictured arriving at Heathrow

Flower sees India triumph as turning point for England as Cook, KP and Co arrive back at Heathrow after momentous victory

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UPDATED:

12:51 GMT, 18 December 2012

Andy Flower senses England’s Test team may have reached a turning point with their historic series victory in India.

The triumphant England players arrived at Heathrow today, as Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar were greeted warmly after touching down in London.

Pietersen, who successfully reintegrated into the squad this series after being selected by Flower, was snapped as he pushed his trolley through the airport.

Triumphant: Monty Panesar and Alastair Cook

Welcome back: Kevin Pietersen is pictured arriving at Heathrow Airport this morning

Triumphant: Monty Panesar (left) and Alastair Cook were at Heathrow along with Kevin Pietersen (right)

Cook and Panesar walked alongside each other through Terminal 3 after yesterday's draw in Nagpur.

Cook’s tourists defied the pessimistic expectations of many by recovering from a nine-wicket drubbing in the first Test in Ahmedabad to win successive matches in Mumbai and Kolkata and then clinch the series with yesterday’s draw.

In doing so, they finished a tough year on a significant high.

Under Cook’s predecessor Andrew Strauss, a dual Ashes-winning captain, England fell from grace in 2012 with series defeats against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates last winter and then at home to South Africa.

Their hard-earned world No 1 Test status was a thing of the past by the time Strauss retired four months ago – and even after their 2-1 victory here, a first in India for almost 28 years, they have lost seven of 15 matches this year.

Good show: Cook and Panesar were greeted warmly at Terminal 3 at Heathrow

Good show: Cook and Panesar were greeted warmly at Terminal 3 at Heathrow

All smiles: Cook was accompanied by his wife Alice as he pushed his trolley through the terminal

All smiles: Cook was accompanied by his wife Alice as he pushed his trolley through the terminal

Coach Flower believes, however, there is no reason why the future cannot be a bright one for Cook’s team.

Asked if the fightback in India – completed thanks to centuries by Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell yesterday – could be a turning point, he said: 'I think it is.

'We had a tough time in the UAE against Pakistan at the start of the year, and one of the most satisfying things at the minute – certainly for me, and I’m sure for the players – is that they’ve shown they can score runs.

'Even some of the older guys, that have been around and have excellent Test career achievements, have still adapted their game and shown their game can improve.

'They’ve done that in conditions where English teams don’t historically do very well.

'I think everyone is very proud of that.'

Say cheese: The pair smiled for the cameras after touching down in the capital

Say cheese: The pair smiled for the cameras after touching down in the capital

Spinning to victory: This picture of Graeme Swann (right) and Monty Panesar (left) was tweeted by fellow bowler James Anderson

Spinning to victory: This picture of Graeme Swann (right) and Monty Panesar (left) was tweeted by fellow bowler James Anderson

Generations of England batsmen, in particular, have been found wanting in India since David Gower’s 1984-85 tourists also prevailed by a 2-1 margin.

'It’s very satisfying for that group of 30 blokes to have come out here and adapted to these conditions and overcome the opposition,' added Flower.

'It’s taken a lot of hard work, a lot of thought and a lot of skill out there in the middle – and they should be very proud of themselves.'

Flower paid tribute to his players’ character after they adapted brilliantly to the conditions.

He told Radio 5 Live: 'After the losses in the UAE we put some training regimes in place to help the players with their knowledge of how to play spin and score runs in these conditions.

Captain fantastic: Alastair Cook ensured that the tourists ended 2012 on a high

Captain fantastic: Alastair Cook ensured that the tourists ended 2012 on a high

'The players have put hours and hours of work into improving themselves. Their improvement against spin is great testament to their character.

'I think it has been a great year for English cricket. To win here for the first time in (almost) 28 years is an historic achievement. There is plenty for us to be proud of us in this last year.'

Flower also had words of praise for Kevin Pietersen, who finished a turbulent year personally on a high, the highlight a magnificent 186 in Mumbai.

He said: 'That innings in Mumbai was outstanding. He showed incredible skill and for him to turn the game around for us in partnership with Alastair Cook was a pivotal moment in the series.'

Alastair Cook says beating India is as good as winning in Australia

On par with the Ashes: Captain Cook believes beating India is as good as triumph over Australia

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UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 18 December 2012

Alastair Cook marked the victorious end of his first series as Test captain by saying England's win felt as good as when they captured the Ashes in Australia.

Centuries from Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell saw Cook's side safely home to a draw in the final game in Nagpur to secure a 2-1 triumph and the first series win in India by an England team in nearly 28 years.

And Cook, named man of the series for his 562 runs which turned the tide after a first-Test defeat, said: 'I think it is on a par with the Ashes.

Loving it! James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Alastair Cook (right) celebrate winning the Ashes in Australia in 2010

Loving it! James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Alastair Cook (right) celebrate winning the Ashes in Australia in 2010

'As an Englishman, winning in Australia after so long meant a huge amount. But in that dressing room there for that last half an hour, knowing what wehad achieved, it was a very special place and it will live long in my memory.

'It has been an incredible tour. It was a pretty nervy dressing room for the last 150-odd overs, knowing how close we were to something very special, but to go out and do it as convincingly as we did was great.'

England now have series away and at home against New Zealand next year before an Ashes defence on home soil from July.

Team director Andy Flower spoke of how the team had done their country proud while Cook, only the fourth England captain to win a Test series in India, admitted even he was surprised at how things turned around after starting with a nine-wicket defeat in Ahmedabad.

He said: 'I was not surprised at the way we stood together, but I was at the level we managed to achieve so soon after Ahmedabad.

'I talked about playing to our potential, but I was surprised we managed to do it straightaway.

'When you go to bed realising you can play here – that is very encouraging.

'After that second innings in Ahmedabad we thought: yes, we can score runs out here. Everyone has contributed and I can't praise the guys enough. The willingness to learn and to front up to a very tough challenge was fantastic.'

Accomplished: Cook oversaw a momentous win in India as captain

Accomplished: Cook oversaw a momentous win in India as captain

India captain MS Dhoni put a brave face on his country's first home defeat since Australia toured in 2004-05, and admitted England were 'a very well-balanced side'.

He added: 'Their two spinners are very good, and James Anderson bowled very well throughout on wickets where there was no help for the fast bowlers. He was the major difference.'

Asked whether he thought Sachin Tendulkar – off the field for most of Monday nursing a stiff neck – would play another Test, Dhoni replied: 'I hope so.'

Pushed on whether Tendulkar had told his captain about his plans, Dhoni said: 'No.'

It felt a suitably inconclusive end to one of the most disappointing home series India have known.

Picture dispute: We are unable to carry live pictures from the fourth Test in Nagpur due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

SPOTY 2012: BBC produced champagne moment – Edge of the Box

With SPOTY, the BBC delivered a champagne moment to mark vintage year

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UPDATED:

07:58 GMT, 17 December 2012

As reported on this website a couple of days ago, yesterday provided a bumper Sabbath of sport on the telly to wedge yourself into the settee for.

Although, I do have to be honest. I did take a couple of hours off from the vigil to watch the gripping last two episodes of the The Killing. So a bit of a Fjord Super Sunday for me, too.

It all started before dawn had even considered the notion of cracking with Amir Khan’s impressive return to form in LA, followed by a swift switch of continent to the Test Match from Nagpur.

Sealed with a kiss: Bradley Wiggins won the Sports Personality of the Year Award

Sealed with a kiss: Bradley Wiggins won the Sports Personality of the Year Award

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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Although, so old skool was the progress on the field of play, Bumble found himself turning on the poop bag-free dog walkers of Brentford, by way of conversation.

This was followed by several hours of football – from a Yokohama Samba, all the way to a point for Big Sam. This, though, was merely the warm-up for the night that was set to celebrate arguably the greatest year of sport this United Kingdom of ours has ever witnessed.

Frankly, we’ve never had it so good. Therefore, neither has BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year Awards which quite sensibly set up shop back at the scene of the crime, in East London’s ExCel Centre.

If we weren’t quite aware of just how special this year’s event was, then the opening to the show surely left us in no doubt.

A spectacular helicopter ride with the three hosts Sue Barker, Clare Balding and Gary Lineker through a twinkling night time London was followed by Emily Sande serenading us in an ink blue sea awash with twinkling lights inside the arena.

Then there was Mark Cavendish escorted to the stage with the trophy he won last year, flanked by members of the armed forces and several Games makers.

As Sue Barker pointed out, this was the biggest show in Sports Personality’s 59th year. However, it was also two and half hours plus of telly. The question would therefore have to be asked: would it be big enough to fill that much air time

Well, personally, I thought this particular marathon was a real sprint – the time flying by as we flipped from stage, to film, to interview, with hero after hero never failing to remind us why running, jumping, kicking, hitting et al can be so damned special.

OK, true, arguably you can hear enough of people saying what ‘an incredible experience’ it was, but that ‘it wasn’t just me’. However, when time after time it’s people whose astounding performances during this last 12 months absolutely lit up the nation, we are surely honour-bound to pardon the repetition.

Honoured: Andy Murray received his third-place trophy from Lennox Lewis

Honoured: Andy Murray received his third-place trophy from Lennox Lewis

Always unavoidably flat, though, are the live interviews from around the world.

Andy Murray at least got himself a nice poolside seat and the prospect we might see some running, petting or bombing in the background. But poor old Chris Hoy found himself in what appeared to be a dentist’s reception, with only half a Christmas tree for company.

On the night, though, in the room it was Bradley Wiggins who was going to take some beating.

Double act: Wiggins and Sue Barker entertained the crowd at London's Excel Arena

Double act: Wiggins and Sue Barker entertained the crowd at London's Excel Arena

First up of the 12, his film was voiced
by his Quadrophenia Mod-In-Arms Phil Daniels, and his suit was as sharp
as it was nostalgic for those times. He was also hilarious, continually
calling Ms Barker ‘Susan’ and ripping Gary by referring to ‘the
incredible team’ he must have behind his make-up.

The film recalling the incredible final day of the Premier League was also enthralling, and was greeted by an impressive 16,000 capacity ‘Posnan’. While Martine Wright’s speech on accepting the Helen Rollason award was both incredibly touching and inspirationally uplifting.

Talks: The Duchess of Cambridge and Jessica Ennis

Talks: The Duchess of Cambridge and Jessica Ennis

However, something special seemed to happen when the name 'Jessica Ennis' was said aloud and she glided to the stage in ‘that dress’ (I’m no expert, but I’m sure that dress is a definite ‘that dress’). The hall seemed to have itself a favourite, judging from the response.

The result, however, was still an hour away. Before that was announced, two local lads had their chance to shine on stage. First up, there was Hackney’s Idris Elba delivering a rousing rendition of Edgar Guest’s words to welcome the victorious Team GB/Paralympics GB (with mention in dispatches for the cheer the Ryder Cup team received). Then, to the sort of reception you might imagine Robbie Williams would walk out to, there was Leytonstone’s David Beckham in a brown sports jacket welcoming Lord Coe up to collect his Lifetime Achievement Award.

Although it was actually the Duchess Of Cambridge who gave Seb his trophy. But I don’t think she’s an East Ender.

In the end though, and to chants of ‘Wiggo, Wiggo’, it was the man who had opened proceedings with such natural aplomb, that won the day. Bradley Wiggins won the Tour, took gold and stole the show. ‘There’s free beer around the back, courtesy of the BBC’ he told the crowd.

Unlikely, but credit where it’s due, the Corporation certainly created a champagne moment to mark this vintage sporting year.

India v England: Kevin Pietersen leads recovery on day one in Nagpur

KP leads England recovery as slow-scoring visitors struggle on day one of final Test

By
David Clough, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

11:02 GMT, 13 December 2012

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UPDATED:

11:52 GMT, 13 December 2012

Kevin Pietersen helped England recover from the loss of two early wickets to eke out 199 for five on a pitch of turgid low bounce on day one of the final Test against India.

Alastair Cook's tourists, needing a draw in Nagpur to close out an historic series victory, lost both openers – their captain and Nick Compton – to India's lone pace bowler Ishant Sharma inside the first hour.

But Pietersen (73) and Jonathan Trott then shared a hard-working stand of 86 in 39 overs after England had chosen to bat first.

Leading the recovery: Pietersen hit 73 off 188 balls at Nagpur

Leading the recovery: Pietersen hit 73 off 188 balls at Nagpur

Pietersen had to play a very
different game in his 108-ball 50 today to the century with which he
transformed proceedings in England's famous second-Test victory in
Mumbai last month.

Extreme conditions here at the VCA
Stadium dictated that patience and watchfulness were a necessity, even
for a batsman of his world-class talent.

The same will surely pertain all
match, and may well mean England have fared acceptably at least –
especially after a second 50 partnership, unbroken between Matt Prior
and debutant Joe Root – on a surface precluding fluent strokeplay.

Compton was the first to be undone in slow-motion when a short delivery produced only looping, disorientating bounce.

He set himself with reflexes trained
for a pitch somewhere within the usual pace parameters. As the ball died
off the surface, Compton's bat was therefore thrown into position too
quickly and resulted in a thin edge which barely carried to the
wicketkeeper.

No ordinary Joe: Root ended day one on 31 runs after facing 110 balls

No ordinary Joe: Root ended day one on 31 runs after facing 110 balls

Cook needed 15 balls to get off the
mark, as Pragyan Ojha took the new ball in the absence of a second
seamer and tried to out-bore the England captain with a seven-two
leg-side field and consequent negative line.

Trott contributed England's first
boundary, a straight-driven four when Sharma helpfully took the pitch
out of the equation with a half-volley.

But the No 3 was fortunate to survive on seven when he played too soon at a length ball and was hit on the pad.

Sharma was convinced the lbw was
stone-dead, but umpire Kumar Dharmasena made the marginal call that ball
had hit pad just outside the line of off-stump.

Cook found himself on the other side
of a similar ruling soon afterwards from Dharmasena – and although it
looked as if he was hit outside the line, this time he had to go lbw.
England were in danger of fluffing their lines just when they need one
more confident performance to complete their mission improbable on this
tour.

Take bat: Jonathan Trott led a fightback with Pietersen

Take bat: Jonathan Trott led a fightback with Pietersen

But Trott and Pietersen provided
some much-needed stability as they gradually attuned themselves to an
unfamiliar experience, even by sub-continental standards.

Pietersen became sufficiently in sync to loft leg-spinner Piyush Chawla over mid-on for two boundaries in one over.

By early afternoon, he was also leg-glancing Ravichandran Ashwin for his seventh four to reach his half-century.

Trott dug in too for 133 balls until a
misjudgment against slow left-armer Ravindra Jadeja saw him wave
through an arm ball which bowled him off-stump.

Ian Bell disappointed, making only a single in 28 balls before poking a straightforward catch to cover off Chawla.

Pietersen had escaped a half-chance
on 61, when Cheteshwar Pujara could not quite gather a tough low catch
at midwicket off Sharma.

He shepherded Root through to tea.
But there was to be no record-equalling 23rd Test century, Pietersen
neatly caught low down by Ojha when he again chipped to midwicket – this
time advancing to Jadeja.

It was the latest in a series of
apparently unforced errors which had led to England wickets. But it
would be missing the point to view them in isolation, without reference
to the arduous process of trying to make runs in between with so little
pace and bounce on the batsman's side.

Prior joined Root, and the struggle
continued – favourably for England, though – for the remainder of the
evening session. Prior, like Pietersen, was forced to bat against type –
while Root impressed with his defensive technique and willingness to
meet spin with bat rather than pad even in the absence of DRS.

By the close, the jury had to stay
out on which team was ahead of the game. For England, after their
decidedly sticky start, deferred judgment was a tolerable outcome.

Picture dispute

We are unable to carry live pictures from the fourth Test in Nagpur due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

England choose Joe Root for final India Test

EXCLUSIVE: England turn to Root as replacement for Patel in final India Test

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UPDATED:

00:42 GMT, 13 December 2012

England are set to spring a surprise for the final Test in India by handing a Test debut to 21-year-old Joe Root.

Root is in line to replace Samit Patel at No 6, ahead of fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow, in Nagpur later today.

Chosen one: Joe Root is set to be named in the England side

Chosen one: Joe Root is set to be named in the England side

Root lost out to Nick Compton in the first Test and was overlooked in favour of Bairstow for the second Test when Ian Bell flew home for the birth of his child.

But his 166 in a warm-up match for the England Performance Programme impressed and it now seems he will be given his chance.

Missing out: Nick Compton was also in the frame to play

Missing out: Nick Compton was also in the frame to play

England need a win or draw to clinch a series victory in India for the first time since 1984-5.

England paceman Stuart Broad ruled out of final India Test

Broad ruled out of India Test but England delay decision on Twenty20 series

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UPDATED:

07:51 GMT, 12 December 2012

Stuart Broad has been ruled
out of contention for Thursday's final Test against India because of his
bruised left heel, but have delayed making a decision on his
availabilty for next week's two Twenty20s.

England's Twenty20 captain was highly
unlikely in any case to be selected to play India in Nagpur, when the
tourists will be bidding for a historic 3-1 series win.

Setback: Stuart Broad has been troubled by a heel injury

Setback: Stuart Broad has been troubled by a heel injury

The fast bowler lost form, after first suffering a heel injury in a tour match in Mumbai last month, and was not involved in last week's seven-wicket victory at Eden Gardens.

After suffering more discomfort at net practice yesterday, he was sent for a second scan – which showed exactly the same as the first one he underwent five weeks ago.

Test captain Alastair Cook confirmed the news at his press conference at the VCA Stadium.

'Stuart is out of this Test match,' he said.

'His scan has showed a bruised heel, and we'll assess him over the next day or so to see what happens with the Twenty20.

Focused: England's Monty Panesar

Focused: England's Monty Panesar

'We'll know a bit more when it settles down.'

Broad has endured an especially
miserable tour, in which he did not manage to take a wicket in either of
the first two Tests – and was then dropped for the third, in order to
accommodate fit-again seamer Steven Finn.

'It's the nature of sport, isn't it Some people have good tours, and some people don't,' added Cook.

'Unfortunately, more down to niggles and and illnesses, Broady hasn't quite managed to get into the tour.

'It's frustrating for him, and disappointing for us as a side.

'But we all know the class of Broady, and he'll be back.'

MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher in the firing line and defeat will prompt some awkward questions

India's big guns are in the firing line… and defeat will prompt some awkward questions

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UPDATED:

23:29 GMT, 11 December 2012

A little over three weeks after handing Alastair Cook’s team a nine-wicket thrashing in the first Test at Ahmedabad, India’s cricket team can barely move for recriminations.

A series that was billed as their chance for revenge following the 4-0 defeat in England in 2011 has turned into a potential disaster.

Fail to win the fourth Test at Nagpur and India will have suffered their first home defeat in 15 series since losing to Australia in 2004-05 — and only their fifth out of 41 since David Gower’s England side won nearly 28 years ago. It is that bad.

Victory, on the other hand, and India
will be able to save at least some face, although plenty of local
observers feel a drawn series would merely delay the blood-letting they
believe is necessary for India’s Test side to move forward.

Uncertain future: Duncan Fletcher (left) and MS Dhoni have come under fire in the Indian Press

Uncertain future: Duncan Fletcher (left) and MS Dhoni have come under fire in the Indian Press (FILE IMAGE)

A testing time

India's Test record since winning the World Cup:

2011: 2-0 v West Indies (away)

2011: 0-4 v England (away)

2011: 2-0 v West Indies (home)

2011-12: 0-4 v Australia (away)

2012-13: 2-0 v NZ (home)

Central to the debate about their future are three men: Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher — celebrity batsman, captain and coach.
As England took charge of the third Test at Kolkata, the Times of India ran a front page picking its team for Nagpur. Dhoni was not in it, while Fletcher has been widely castigated for failing to halt a run of bad results.

That may be unfair on the former England coach, who took over from South African Gary Kirsten just after India lifted the 2011 World Cup at home and Kirsten was conscious he would soon be losing the services of middle-order legends Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. And it is unclear exactly how much power Fletcher has to change India’s cricket culture, which has traditionally been in thrall to the cult of stardom. ]

The manner in which Tendulkar, who turns
40 in April, has clung on has been all too typical. It was a year
between his 99th and 100th international hundreds, and his 76 at Eden
Gardens was his first half-century in 11 Test innings.

The end of an ear The glittering career of Sachin Tendulkar is reaching its close

The end of an ear The glittering career of Sachin Tendulkar is reaching its close (FILE IMAGE)

Dhoni, meanwhile, has lost his lustre after presiding over 10 defeats and only six wins — five against West Indies and New Zealand — since he lifted the World Cup in April 2011. That includes 4-0 whitewashes in England and Australia. A 3-1 defeat now would do little for his career prospects.

Indian hopes of a pitch-induced victory in Nagpur were not helped by a good-looking track at the VCA. But it was hard to be certain: the local groundsman, Pravin Hinganikar, has been instructed by the Indian board not to speak to the media following the outbursts of the Eden Gardens curator Prabir Mukherjee, who refused to do the BCCI’s bidding.

The board’s paranoia reflects the fragile state of their Test team. If India’s away form has been a bone of contention over the years, they have usually been able to take refuge in their near-invincibility at home.

The defeats in Mumbai and Kolkata have come as quite a shock. Another in Nagpur, and Indian cricket will have to answer some very awkward questions.

England must beat India and leave them in turmoil: Nasser Hussain

Nasser Hussain: Don't let India off the hook now – win and leave them in turmoil

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UPDATED:

23:29 GMT, 11 December 2012

There is always the temptation in
cricket to set yourself targets and tick them off. For me it was beating
West Indies, for Michael Vaughan it was winning the Ashes at home and
for Andrew Strauss it was winning the Ashes both home and away.

Now, for Alastair Cook, it is leading
an England team to a series victory in India for the first time in 27
years. The final Test frontier.

It would be, by anyone’s standards, a
fantastic achievement if England win or draw in Nagpur, particularly
after losing all three tosses so far, and for me these back-to-back wins
in Mumbai and Kolkata have surpassed even the last Ashes.

Leading by example: Alastair Cook has been sensational in India as both captain and batsman

Leading by example: Alastair Cook (right) has been sensational in India as both captain and batsman

But I hope England do not get carried
away with what has happened in India. I didn’t like it when they were
talking about becoming one of the best teams ever after they went to No 1
in the world, and I didn’t like it when they were talking of creating
some kind of legacy. It suggested to me they were looking too far down
the line instead of just the next game.

They just need to be the best they can
be, to keep winning as many series as possible. I’m sure that is what
Andy Flower and Alastair Cook will be thinking now because they will
remember that this has been a bad year. They won’t be getting carried
away but they will know that they stand on the verge of something very
special.

England have to be ruthless now. They
cannot soften their focus with the winning post in sight. They were
ruthless when they left Stuart Broad out of the third Test and they must
be prepared to change a winning side again if it feels the right thing
to do.

Will he get the nod Samit Patel faces pressure from Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow

Will he get the nod Samit Patel faces pressure from Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow

For instance, if the pitch does look as if it will be a raging turner they will not need to worry about Samit Patel’s bowling. He simply won’t be doing any with Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar around if it is a surface like Mumbai.

So then they need to decide whether Patel really is the sixth best batsman in England against quality spin on the subcontinent or whether Jonny Bairstow or Eoin Morgan would be a better pick.

And they must be ruthless in the way they play. I will be watching Kevin Pietersen closely. I don’t want Mumbai to be a one-off. I want him to repay the faith England have shown in him with another major contribution.

England cannot be preoccupied with India’s problems and whether or not this is the end of the road for Sachin Tendulkar. If England ease up in any way then, of course, India are capable of winning in Nagpur.

Don’t let them off the hook now, England. Don’t let them escape with a 2-2 draw and be able to say: ‘Well, we didn’t do too badly in the end.’ Make sure you leave India in turmoil when you come home.

For five more days, show them the mental toughness that you require for Test cricket. Then the transformation in this series will be complete.

Do MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and India still have hunger for Tests? – Nasser Hussain

Do Dhoni, Gambhir, Sachin and India legends still have Test hunger

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UPDATED:

21:53 GMT, 9 December 2012

India have big questions to answer in the aftermath of the Kolkata Test and the biggest surrounds the attitude of their near god-like top names.

When the likes of MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and the rest went back to their hotel rooms after that defeat in the third Test, how much were they hurting How much hunger for the long-haul form of the game — with its mental and physical demands — have these multi-millionaire players still got

Are they thinking, deep down, ‘Never mind’, and prioritising instead the fun, glamour and huge financial rewards that come from the Indian Premier League

Plenty to ponder: MS Dhoni

Hungry for more Gautam Gambhir

Plenty to ponder: India captain MS Dhoni (left) and Gautam Gambhir (right)

That is the crux of the issue now for India. The last thing their cricket needs, really, is a win in Nagpur and a share of this series because all that would do is paper over the cracks. They would believe everything is OK.

India left Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh out of their squad for the final Test but it is attitudes as much as personnel that need to change. India will always have some good young players but what kind of cricket will they want to play Will they still dedicate themselves to Test cricket or will they look to that lucrative six-week world of IPL Twenty20 instead

We had the sight, just before England completed their famous victory, of India’s chief selector, Sandeep Patil, being caught on TV having what looked like an animated conversation with their coach Duncan Fletcher.

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They could have been talking about what they were going to have for lunch for all we know, but it didn’t look like that. It looked like pretty serious stuff, with some finger-jabbing going on from Patil. And Fletcher would have hated that.

When I worked with Duncan for England he hated anything like that being done in public. He even hated us talking team business in the dressing room because he felt any player watching us might think we were talking about them. He liked to conduct his business in private.

Fletcher has a very different job now. When he was England coach he could take people on for the good of the team. He would incur the wrath of many a county chairman because he knew what was best for England and he wasn’t afraid to upset people along the way. And he turned English cricket around with the help of central contracts and the sort of support for the England team that poor David Lloyd could only dream about when he was coach.

Can Fletcher do that now Perhaps if India lose this series 3-1 the public will realise that there needs to be a shake-up and support Duncan’s attempts to do that, for what is happening in Indian cricket is not Fletcher’s fault. Remember, they have lost two great players in Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, while the greatest of them all, Sachin Tendulkar, is not what he was.

Fletcher will want to look into the eyes of Dhoni, Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and even Tendulkar to see how much hunger they have.

The day that hunger goes is the day they will have to step down and Fletcher will know what needs to be done. It is whether he will be allowed to do it and whether the players take responsibility for what has happened that will be key.

The turnaround in this series has been incredible. For England to have lost three tosses and to have been defeated in the first Test so heavily but to be 2-1 up with one to play is little short of phenomenal.

When they were 2-1 up in the last Ashes series they went to Sydney and produced their best performance and that is what they want to do now.

There have been echoes in this series of how they came back in Australia after a slightly shaky start in Brisbane and England will not want to share the series.

If they complete the job in Nagpur it will be right up there with the Ashes.

Picture dispute

We are unable to carry live pictures from the third Test in Kolkata due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.