England look to salvage pride as India eye final flourish
Sports thrives on competition. No wonder sporting rivalries are often likened to wars, minus the bloodshed.
Sadly the back-to-back India-England series have lacked that intensity, as a result, fans appear to have lost interest. The empty Eden Gardens galleries during the fifth and final ODI between the two sides underlined the fact that too much of anything is not good even though the boot was clearly on the other foot for a change.
Cricket faithfuls will be hoping that Saturday's India and England will produce a few fireworks to prolong the Diwali festivities as the two teams lock horn in the game's shortest format.
With less than a year to go before the next World T20 championship to be held in Sri Lanka, the two teams would be hoping to make a fresh start. This one-off slambang encounter also presents England with a great opportunity to salvage something from what has been a disastrous tour of India.
England's ODI skipper Alastair Cook said before leaving for England that "both winning and losing can become a habit". It will be a big challenge for England's new T20 skipper Graeme Swann to turn things around.
And more than pride, England, as the reigning World T20 champions, have a reputation to defend and also stay atop the ICC T20 rankings. A defeat on Saturday will see England slip below India and Sri Lanka in the T20 format.
To start with, England batsmen need to demonstrate that a month's toil in Indian conditions has not been wasted. They can do so by improving significantly on their woeful display in the final ODI when they were bowled out for 176 after being 129 for no loss at one stage on Tuesday.
The T20 match is slated to be played on the same strip that was used on Tuesday, so England can expect the wicket to play low and slow. With winter setting in, dew may also play a crucial role in the latter part of the game. English batsmen would have to use their feet better on this track to counter Indian spinners, who have reveled bowling in these conditions.
Both Ravindra Jadeja (11) and Ravichandran Ashwin (10), who shared 21 wickets between them in the ODI series, would be itching to have another go at the Englishmen.
India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who feels 'revenge' is a dirty word in sports, would, of course, like to pile on more humiliation on England. With most of his players in good touch, both with the bat and ball, he has plenty of options at his disposal.