India must get England captain Alastair Cook out early to draw series in Nagpur, says Mike Atherton
India must get Alastair Cook out early if they are to have any hope of drawing the series, says Athers.
Last Updated: 09/12/12 11:15am
The Essex opener constructed a superb 190 in the first innings of the third Test at Kolkata to put England on course for a 2-1 series lead - a knock which made him his country's top Test ton scorer and the youngest player to make 7000 runs the game has seen.
Cook also made centuries in the first two Tests and Atherton says he is the man India must target when the fourth Test gets underway on Thursday.
"India look unlikely to take 20 wickets at the moment but if you took Cook out of the occasion it looks more likely," Atherton told Sky Sports after watching the tourists wrap up a seven-wicket win on Sunday.
"They have to hope they can get him out early and try to come up with something to do that. If they achieve that then the rest of England's batting, whilst it looks good on paper and it has a great feel to it, has not been as solid.
"Cook has been the foundation for England's massive first innings totals and if they get Cook early then who knows what may happen."
There is debate surrounding which sort of surface India will produce at Nagpur following England victories on Mumbai's turning track and a less volatile surface at Eden Gardens. However, Atherton says the real concern for India fans and the local media is the make-up of the hosts' team going into that final match.
It has been revealed all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh and left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan have all been axed for the final Test and Atherton suspects there will be demand for more changes, should India fail again in the fourth match.
"We don't know what [sort of wicket] we'll get at Nagpur but India are in a bit of a pickle now," he said.
"They didn't get the better of England on a turning pitch in Mumbai and in Kolkata, where it didn't spin as much, England have had the better of it.
"What India will produce, I don't know. They'll not want a flat deck because they need to produce a results pitch of some sorts and try to get back into the game.
"But all the problems are with India. The newspapers have started to turn on them here. The Times of India, an influential newspaper in these parts, has called for a clearout: get rid of [captain] MS Dhoni, get rid of [Sachin] Tendulkar, bring in the young lads, make [Virat] Kohli captain.
"If the Indian board feel, as I do, that this is a watershed moment for India and it is all very well getting walloped abroad but then when you come home and get marmalised as well, as they have done in the last two games, then they will want to move things forward."
However, Atherton urged the Indian board to treat out-going greats, particularly Tendulkar, with the respect they deserve and suggested it would be appropriate, if they were intending to end the Little Master's Test career, that he should be allowed to announce the end to his five-day career before the Nagpur game.
"It's important to make those changes in the right way, particularly with someone like Tendulkar, who has had such a fabulous career," said Atherton.
"Tendulkar means so much to people here, you sit in the crowd when he's batting and they take every boundary and every appeal so personally. It is very important they get a chance to say farewell to somebody like that."