Please, India, put up a fight
Posted in England v India 2011
Much has already been written about the new challenge facing England as they look to build on their ascent to the top of the ICC Test rankings.
With a 3-0 lead and series victory over India already secured, team director Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss have been quick to guard against complacency ahead of the fourth and final npower Test at the Kia Oval.
However, while England will simply be looking for more of the same in the capital this week, their opponents face arguably their stiffest challenge yet.
To describe India’s performances so far this summer as disappointing would be something of an understatement. At times, particularly last week, they have bordered on embarrassing.
As is often the case in these situations, there have been mitigating circumstances, such as a lack of preparation, injuries to key players (most notably Zaheer Khan), and the sheer quality of an England side brimming with confidence.
However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team have not just been beaten; they have been humiliated, with the innings-and-242-run defeat at Edgbaston representing a new low on an increasingly painful tour.
Although Dhoni himself found form with the bat in Birmingham, albeit in a somewhat hopeless cause, I would suggest there are only two India players - Rahul Dravid and Praveen Kumar - who can be satisfied with their efforts to date.
The rest of the squad can have few arguments against the criticism they currently face, yet they still have an opportunity to make partial amends.
Victory at the Oval may do little to placate India’s passionate supporters, but it would at least restore a semblance of pride in the team that arrived on these shores less than two months ago as the number-one ranked side in Test cricket.
As glorious as it has been to see England scale new heights, I can't be alone in feeling slightly short-changed by the lack of resistance offered by the tourists so far.
A fourth successive home win would be most welcome, but it would also be fantastic to see a thrilling contest, in which both sides perform at something near their best.
With the likes of Virender Sehwag, the aforementioned Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, who, let’s not forget, remains on the brink of his 100th international hundred, set to feature for India, that is surely not an unrealistic hope.
Having been on the receiving end of three heavy defeats, it would be easy for Dhoni’s men to throw in the towel and go through the motions over the next five days.
We can only hope that, for the first time this summer, they exceed expectations.