England have already pulled off a “monumental” achievement to lead their Test series in India 2-1 – and in captain Alastair Cook have the right man to ensure they finish the job in Nagpur.
Cook has led from the front spectacularly already, with three hundreds in successive Tests culminating in his English record-breaking 23rd in the seven-wicket victory at Eden Gardens.
Graham Gooch, batting coach and mentor to his one-time Essex protege, knows from his own experience as a Test opener it is folly simply to predict more of the same.
All runs in international cricket are hard-earned, a fact personified in Cook’s renowned diligence and determination every time he goes out to bat.
If anyone, however, can simply keep churning out the runs – as he so famously did in England’s historic Ashes victory in Australia two winters ago – it is the new England captain.
So far, Cook has batted for more than 26 hours in this series and racked up almost 550 runs.
It speaks volumes too for an iron will to carry on interminably that he was so dismayed after his bizarre run-out in Kolkata – even though he had a man-of-the-match 190 under his belt at the time.
Others, of course, have played significant parts in England’s fightback after losing the first Test by 10 wickets.
Kevin Pietersen’s unique abilities helped to put England out of sight in Mumbai, where spinners Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann shared 19 of the 20 Indian wickets, and James Anderson and Steven Finn’s expert use of reverse-swing was telling in the latest victory.
“It was a monumental achievement,” said Gooch, himself a veteran of three Test tours here but on the winning side in only one match. Cook’s team are already very different, and have the chance to become the first from England since 1984-85 to win a series here. “We have come over and we know these conditions are sometimes alien to English players,” added Gooch. “We lost the first Test – we took a bit of a beating there – and India have set up the conditions in Mumbai and Kolkata, but our guys have responded magnificently and handled those conditions.
“Let’s be fair; we’ve outplayed India in both the last two Tests.
“We’re in the ascendancy.”
India’s selectors have responded by dropping three mainstays of their team – Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.
England will take account, of course, but will not be distracted.
“India have made some changes to their squad, but we can’t worry about what they’re doing,” Gooch said. “We have to make sure we enjoy the moment – our guys deserve to celebrate – and then when we move on to Nagpur, where we know that conditions will produce another result. The home side are one down and will want to try and get level. We’ll be prepared.”