Pitch in question as England go for series win in Nagpur

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Updated: December 12, 2012

The state of the pitches in India’s current series with England has been the subject of nearly as much debate as the captaincy of MS Dhoni or the form of Sachin Tendulkar.

Eden Gardens groundsman Prabir Mukherjee got himself into trouble with the Indian cricket board over his outburst in the media prior to the third Test earlier this month. Nagpur, however, ought to be free from similar concerns.

India go into the coin toss on Thursday morning needing a win to tie the series 2-2. All three Tests so far have led to sizeable wicket-victories – meaning the side batting last has, unusually, come out on top in India.

Nagpur’s groundsman, former Vidarbha all-rounder Praveen Hingnikar, 47, has so far been gagged by the Cricket Board of India. He would not reveal anything to us about the state of the pitch, but would only speak officially on the fifth day of the Test – so we can assume it will last that long.

The pitch in Nagpur is normally a good one. There is bounce and that ensures good cricket, but sharp turn is also likely as the game progresses.

The playing surface is bound to remain a point of interest for both teams. The surface has been dry and reflects cracks beneath, while the bounce should give the bowlers an advantage early on.

Yesterday, Indian pacer Ishant Sharma was seen practising hard with the bowling coach, Joe Dawes, who has been advising the pace bowlers to work with their in-swingers. The stint that Ishant had in the net could be seen as an indication of the desperation that the team is experiencing.

Team India still believe it can win the Test but the players have not been able to identify the flaws and correct them in time. Coach Duncan Fletcher has been working overtime with the batsmen, trying to ensure that the battle is not lost in the dressing room itself. India’s big guns are all in the firing line if England hold on to win the series.

For Alastair Cook, the England captain, he is looking at leading his side to a series victory in India for the first time in 27 years. Whatever the travails of his opponents, it can’t diminish the scale of the achievement if he wins or draws the final encounter at Nagpur.

As a result, he and England team management have been advising the players not to let up. The England team is not hoping to return with 2-2.