He is yet to lose a Test series but the situation cannot be more daunting. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is up against a rampaging home team, playing in their bastion. It's easily the biggest game of the Indian skipper's Test career. The series and the team's No 1 ranking is at stake in the third Test against England starting at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
The hosts are on the threshold of taking a series-clinching 3-0 lead and the mantle of the world's best Test team.
“However, I have never played any game which has been easy. When we play at home, there is the pressure to win. When we play abroad, there is pressure to prove ourselves.”
Edgbaston has been a happy hunting ground for England and the wicket looks tailor-made for them. It has a thick grass cover, which should suit their pace attack. “It looks a different wicket, the seamers will get more help as compared to the other wickets,” said Dhoni.
Not many give India a chance. After the Trent Bridge rout, the body language of the players has been poor and the pressure is showing. Critics here can't wait to see how India respond. The skipper said more than the physical side, it is the mental aspect that will be tested.
Dhoni is banking on the experienced campaigners. “It is a tough thing to do. At the same time, you know what needs to be done, and accordingly you prepare yourself.”
But for the first time in the series, India will have the services of Virender Sehwag. Returning from shoulder surgery, he hasn't had an ideal preparation but no one writes off Sehwag.
“He's a very dynamic player, who backs his instincts. He believes in giving the ball the treatment it deserves and we all know what impact he can have at the top of the order,” said Dhoni.
England skipper Andrew Strauss threw down the gauntlet. “Sehwag is a quality player; his record speaks for itself. We back ourselves against anybody, especially in these conditions. It would be a test for him as well for others.”
Both the England victories have been hard-earned and Strauss is expecting another tough fight from India. “It (the backlash) can actually have a galvanising effect (on them). India are a very strong side and in the last two Tests we had our backs to the wall. We are not expecting anything different and we have to work very hard.”The good news for India is they have all fit men to choose from. Dhoni has been an instinctive captain and it remains to be seen whether he goes with three pacers and a spinner or gambles with an all-pace