The Oval ground is not known to be very kind to the greats of the game. The greatest, Don Bradman, learnt that in 1948, when he was out for a duck in his last Test innings. If he would have got four runs, he would have boasted a Test average of 100.
When the proposed World Test championship is held here in 2013, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid will be over 40, VVS Laxman will be nearing that mark. The fourth Test at The Oval could well be the three great Indian batsmen's last in England. With their team's reputation at stake, the trio will have to provide the lead as India can ill-afford their failure.Tendulkar factor
Bradman may have bowed out of the game with a zero but he had come into the Oval Test on the back of an unbeaten 173, after he started the series with a hundred. Tendulkar's highest in the series has been 56 in six innings. His personal glory will be secondary. The elusive 100th hundred will not taste sweet if the team flops.
Bradman's team had already sealed the series when he reached Oval. Here, India have been left bruised and battered in three Tests - routed by 196 runs at Lord's, 319 runs at Trent Bridge and by an innings and 242 runs at the Oval.
Since India reached the No 1 rank, Tendulkar has played his part well, but the run-machine flopped here and the team's batting has collapsed.
The England attack, however, is more focused on getting their gameplan right against Dravid. He is the man in form with two brilliant centuries in the first two Tests. At Edgbaston, he was out to a dubious decision in the second innings and will certainly not be short of inspiration.
Another stalwart, Laxman, has been batting beautifully but somehow the runs have eluded him too. Known to be at his best when the chips are down, the stylish batsman has been strangely falling after getting his eye in.
Life for the batsmen is expected be a bit easier at Oval compared to the hostile conditions they have experienced so far in the series.
The Oval is rated as the best cricket pitch in this country with the batsmen getting value for their shots. It has enough to keep the fast bowlers interested and the spin bowlers too have the opportunity to make their mark.
India have their back to their walls and their challenge will be to lift themselves from the mind-numbing defeats. The home team start as overwhelming favourites. On a high after a near flawless performance at Edgbaston, they are charged up at the prospect of completing a clean sweep.
They will be further buoyed by the news that pace spearhead James Anderson shaped well at the nets on Wednesday.
For India, the good news is that Praveen Kumar showed up at the nets. The mercurial swing bowler, had a bowl as well as a long hit. S Sreesanth, however, was learnt to be suffering from cold and left the ground early. The wicket will not offer the same assistance to the pace bowlers but they should love the overcast conditions forcast for most days.
It means limited role for the spinners and more work for the pacers. It remains to be seen, however, whether, PK lasts the distance.