Undaunted by the riots that broke out in Birmingham on Monday night, England takes on India in the third Test at Edgbaston on Wednesday, with rival captains Andrew Strauss and Mahendra Singh Dhoni both supporting the decision to go ahead with the game.
Dozens of people attacked shops in Birmingham’s main retail district on Monday, the third night of the violence and looting that began in London and has since spread to several other British cities.
“I think this is an opportunity for cricket to maybe put a feel-good factor back into the newspapers and show that not everything’s bad out there at the moment,” Strauss said. “Let’s divorce the cricket match from what’s going on out in the country, which is clearly not our proudest hour.”
When asked if India would play, Dhoni replied: “Of course.”
He added: “I think the best thing to do as cricketers is to prepare well for the game. For us it’s important to be 100% ready, whatever happens.”
England leads the four-match series 2-0 and will unseat India as the world’s No. 1 side if it wins the third Test.
“We’re not approaching this test any differently,” Strauss said. “That No. 1 ranking comes as a consequence of playing good cricket and so all we’ve got to focus on is trying to play good cricket.”
England will again be without Chris Tremlett with a back injury, so Tim Bresnan will keep his place after career best figures of 5-48 at Trent Bridge, while Ravi Bopara will replace injured batsman Jonathan Trott.
“I think we’re all delighted that Ravi’s got a chance again, he’s been knocking on the door for quite some time,” Strauss said.
Strauss confirmed Ian Bell would bat at number three, with Eoin Morgan moving up to five and Bopara six.
India’s luck with injuries shows no sign of turning. Dhoni’s side has so far lost Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh, although it is boosted by the return of batsman Virender Sehwag.
Sehwag flew into England last week after recovering from a shoulder injury and although he has also had a hearing problem, it will not prevent him playing.
“If he nicks it and doesn’t walk that might be why!” Dhoni joked. “I can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t play. He’s a very dynamic player. He bats with instinct and we all know the effect and aggressive opener can have on the opposition bowling attack so I think he’s a very good player to have.”
India’s main concern in heavy defeats at Lord’s and Trent Bridge has been its failure to finish off England’s lower order.
At Lord’s — where India lost by 196 runs — the tourists were in a position to bowl England out for a manageable target when Matt Prior and Stuart Broad put on an unbroken stand of 162.
Bresnan’s 90 at Trent Bridge plus 44 from Broad batted India out of a game it had by the throat early in England’s second innings.
“(We need to) put further pressure on the batting order because if you see their batting lineup they bat quite deep,” Dhoni said. “They bat nine and 10 so it’s very important how we bowl with the ball that gets slightly old, maybe from 45 or 50 overs onwards.”
By contrast the highest score from an Indian tailender in this series was 46 from Harbhajan in the second innings at Trent Bridge.
In the context of the game, with India needing to bat through four sessions, it was a reckless knock as Harbhajan repeatedly threw the bat and eventually holed out when he should have been blocking.
Dhoni acknowledged India needed to be more ruthless.
“In the last two test matches we were in a position where we could dominate both the games so what’s important is to get into the similar position again in the third test,” he said. “We need to get into exactly the same scenario and then finish it off.” — Sapa-AP