Even as the minds have been sidetracked by the UK riots, that the third Test of the India England series is set to go ahead as planned at Edgbaston, Birmingham only means that neither India nor England can afford to take their eyes off the pursuit, notwithstanding what is happening around them.
Even as the UK riots have exposed a volatile underbelly, the ECB and the BCCI are attempting to suggest normalcy a day before the all important third Test of the four Test series is set to get underway. While the security has been an overriding concern, both teams know that once they take the field tomorrow, their only focus is their status in the current Test contest and what they need to change that.
For England, despite the gloom and shame that surrounds the violence and rioting, cricket wise, they are on the verge of achieving the ultimate status as the no.1 Test status. They will, however, have to take that away from India by winning the third Test to maintain the two Test win margin in the series. In that light, Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, the England captain and England coach, will be keen to keep the England team focused on the fact that their job is far from over even though the scoreline after the first Two Test stands at an impressive 2-0.
England will have the one change from the Trent Bridge Test in that the injured Jonathan Trott makes way for Ravi Bopara while Tim Bresnan retains his place through his own performance but also, with injury to Chris Tremlett. England will have a challenge in that the prolific Trott will be missed while Bopara will be under pressure to make a case for himself once more since losing his place in the Test team after the likes of Trott and Ian Bell have made resurgent impressions as England have climbed notches in the Test format.
However, while England will want to keep their process strong and not complacent, it is India who will have to make the right moves if they are to not only prevent an England victory but also, register a much needed win to stay alive in the contest. From several counts, a win is paramount for the Indian cricket. For one, it will keep England’s ambitions at bay and it will certainly spur India for the fourth Test. A win for England and hopes could crumble not only with a series win but also, with the no.1 Test team title snatched away from them.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain, will, however, have a tough time on his hands given that the first two Tests have been unforgiving on the Indian cricket team because of injury breakdowns and failing to seize the initiative when it presented itself. Without Zaheer Khan, India may be at a disadvantage but the experience of playing without him for two Tests now should give Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar a fair indication of the grind involved. Amit Mishra is likely to take Harbhajan Singh’s spin slot while it may be a case of gamble as to who amongst Sreesanth and R.P. Singh the captain would prefer to go with in the third Test.
There is said to be a fair covering of grass at Edgbaston but there are also indicators that spin could come into the picture which should mean that teams will have a counter balance in the spinner although Graeme Swann suffered an injury in the last match but has generally looked better of the two team’s strengths in terms of form as a spinner.
The problem for India though has been the opening slot. With Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag returning to the team, Rahul Dravid can continue his resurgence at no.3. While the presence of the two openers is a huge psychological boost for India, it will also depend on how they cope given that they have had next to nothing to do thus far in the series and will be heading into the contest unfamiliar with Edgbaston as will be much of the team.
What India need to worry about is not just individuals but about finding that quality about the team that made them robust competitors to continue their march towards becoming no.1 in the world. Their greatest challenge has come in the form of England who have decided looked sharper. But if India can perform with the attitude that has allowed them to this exalted position, it should make things tough for England. But perhaps the onus lies once more with the batsmen of profile such as Dravid again, Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman while others will be expected to make a better case for themselves.
With rain set to play a factor, it could make things a little tricky as well, therefore both teams will want to get their best playing eleven on the field and take it from there, as a team. Can England press on collectively or has the break loosened up those ambitions a bit? Can India make the most from the break to gather their wits about them and find their mojo? Edgbaston holds that story.