Eden Gardens battle for Test supremacy

Eden Gardens battle for Test supremacy

Eden Gardens battle for Test supremacy

Over the next five days, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men have a job to do— prove that they indeed deserve to be at the top. The venue for the grim battle is the majestic Eden Gardens in Kolkata where the second and the concluding Test of the two-Test series with South Africa gets under way on Sunday.

Not too often in recent times have India gone into the final Test of a home series needing a victory merely to square the series. Indeed, only twice since they were beaten 1-0 by Pakistan in a five-match series in early 1987 have India lost Test series in their own backyard. For that extraordinary record to continue, Dhoni’s men must somehow dismantle the South African juggernaut in the second Test.

The Eden Gardens was the stage on which India conjured their most memorable Test victory ever, against Australia in 2001. Fortunately, VVS Laxman, who had played a decisive second innings knock in that victory, is set to return to the side. But India will still feel the absence of Rahul Dravid who had partnered Laxman in the historic 2001 win over Australia.

India must summon similar resilience and character at the same venue if they have to deny South Africa a second series win in India in a decade. Hansie Cronje’s outfit had completed a 2-0 sweep in 2000 in India’s most humiliating result at home since 1983, when Clive Lloyd’s men crushed them 3-0 in a six-match series.

Anything less than a victory in this game will end India’s top ICC Test rankings and South Africa will return back to the top slot. As such, there is plenty to play for for the home side. The rankings might not quite be on top of Indian minds, but unaccustomed to being outclassed on home patch, India will be itching to avenge their embarrassing innings loss in Nagpur earlier in the week.

Two years ago, also against South Africa, India went into the final Test in Kanpur after wiping the floor in Ahmedabad. On that occasion, a designer dustbowl had been laid out to facilitate an Indian bounce-back. The curator at Eden Gardens, Prabir Mukherjee, hasn’t been as accommodating, offering a firm, hard strip that has gradually shed a lot of its grass cover, but that is by no means a surface created to help the Indian spinners.

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