11 players produce results, not the 22 yards of turf

Harsha Bhogle

As they were in South Africa in 2010. At Centurion India were bowled out for 136 and on the same surface South Africa amassed 620 for 4. India made 459 batting a second time but though the match was lost by an innings and 25, and familiar talk was heard, India had shown themselves that they could play. And so they competed in the second test at Durban, again a surface that Indians are normally expected to turn their backs from. VVS Laxman ground out 96 but Zaheer Khan stood firm for 27 in a partnership of 70 that was the difference between the two teams. A fighting loss had generated belief and resolve and had overcome a traditional weakness in skill.

Tales of courage

That is what England did in Ahmedabad. Had they folded up in the second innings there, they would have found in the same Wankhede surface unspeakable horrors. They would have been spooked, the series would have been over, the cutting chai in the Irani restaurant might have been sipped on the third evening. But Alastair Cook's second innings century in Ahmedabad prepared the team for the kind of innings that Kevin Pietersen played in Mumbai. Pietersen's innings will be talked about for many many years, young men not yet old enough to be fathers will recall it to their grandchildren but Cook produced the resolve that created the conditions for genius to flower.

The teams go to Kolkata level on paper but the demons in the mind that control fortunes have migrated to India. It will test India for in this wonderful see-saw that a longish series allows they now need to be resolute. But it will test England as much for winning can deceive too. Will England be lulled into thinking that the peak has been conquered? If they do, resolve will be vanquished by complacence, guts by smugness. If however they can keep victory at arm's length, as they did defeat in Ahmedabad, they could give themselves a shot at history.

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