Kolkata: The tenor of the contest in the fourth and final Test between India and England will not be any different from the previous encounter - if the words of India’s vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane are anything to go by. After having mauled the visitors inside two days in the third Test at Ahmedabad, the hosts will again be banking on their spin armoury to win the series to qualify for the inaugural World Test Championship final in June at the Lord’s.
‘‘The wicket will be similar to the third Test here as well as the second one in Chennai. Yes, there will be a difference because this one is being played with the red ball while the pink ball came off the pitch really quickly,’’ remarked Rahane, who himself failed to click as India capitulated to 145 all out in their only completed innings in Ahmedabad.
It’s been nearly a week since Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel led that the riot act - and the manner of India’s win has polarised the game’s fraternity. Replying to a query on the importance of playing straight to counter the slower bowlers with the pink ball (figures show that 21 of of the 30 dismissals in the last Test were to devliveries which didn’t spin), Rahane admitted even they lacked enough practice against the behaviour of pink balls. ‘‘When you are playing spin, it’s very important to play the line and back your abilities. However, this was only our third Test match in pink ball and we need to play more of them,’’ said one of the pillars of Indian middle order who, nevertheless, has had an ordinary series with the bat so far.
Can the England team shake off the mental trauma, after having lost the last Test so badly at the same venue, and come back strongly? ‘‘We respect the England team, they are a balanced side. We are not taking them lightly and we need to play to our strengths,’’ Rahane fended this one with a straight bat.
There is still plenty to play for in the last Test for Virat Kohli & Co vis-a-vis their goal of setting up a WTC final with New Zealand. While a draw will see them winning the series 2-1 and take them though, England can play the party-poopers if they manage to bounce back and win to end the series 2-2. While the visitors have now lost their chance of qualifying, a win for them will see their traditional foes Australia pip India to make the final.
This is precisely why Australia’s Twenty20 squad in New Zealand will be keeping tabs on the action in the sub-continent while preparing for matches against the Black Caps. “Bit of self-interest there, isn’t it, for us following England for the first time in a long time,” a candid Australia coach Andrew McDonald told reporters in Wellington.
“We’ll be hoping that they can do the job there,” he added.
Rahane, however, made it clear that they would be aiming for nothing to short of victory in the last match. ‘‘We would like to win every Test match. Yes, this one is very important for us to win. For that, there needs to be a process in place and we need to play good cricket,’’ he said.
Umesh Yadav, one of the senior pros in the Indian pace bowling line-up, will be replacing Jasprit Bumrah who has opted out of the fourth Test as well as the white ball series. It’s been a while that Yadav had been out of action after suffering an injury during the tour of Australia, but Rahane felt he looked battle-ready. ‘‘I am really happy that he’s back. Umesh had been bowling well at the nets and is raring to go,’’ he added.