In the last decade, never has a Test at home been so crucial.
If India fail to win the final match against England here, the visitors would have registered their first series win in this country in close to three decades.
Instead of the squad bonding two days before the game,
a depleted India team practiced at the outdoor nets of the Jamtha Stadium on Tuesday. Five of the 15-member squad were busy in their respective Ranji matches at different venues.
Of the lot, Ashok Dinda, Parvinder Awana, Piyush Chawla and Ravindra Jadeja could have provided handy practice to the batsmen. Ajinkya Rahane was the other member on Ranji duty.
There were several bowlers during the practice session, but only two were capable of helping the batsmen get into the groove before the big game.
Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha were the only genuine bowlers on display. While the promising Umesh Yadav, who played the first Test, was present at the session, he did not roll his arm over.
From the sidelines
The Vidarbha lad, who has been ruled out with a back injury, sat in a corner mingling with his teammates. R Ashwin too skipped the optional practice session.
Thus, it was left to the support staff to showcase their abilities with the ball. Apart from the bunch of net bowlers, fielding coach Trevor Penny, bowling coach John Dawes, physio Evan Speechly and even the team's logistics manager Satish were seen giving the batsmen practice.
Expectedly, their bowling was not of the same standard and most of them stuck to providing throw downs.
Besides concentrating on their batting, captain MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli also had to don the medium pacer's hat for a while.
With only three days between the third and must-win fourth Test, was it wise to release the players for Ranji?
Former India captain Ajit Wadekar believes planning has always been a problem with Indian cricket. "Even when we went to England last year, half the players came from the West Indies and the remaining from India," he told Hindustan Times.
However, he hoped that the youngsters would not allow the last-minute joining to be a distraction.
"They will be keen to make their India debut. So the eagerness should see them through, as it will be a matter of
Former left-arm spinner Maninder Singh said once the players had been released for the Ranji games, they could not have made it to the team on time.
"Once they are playing a Ranji game, you cannot expect them to leave the game before it ends. The team should be positive going into the Test. It's important to be mentally well prepared."
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