England are bidding to keep the India series alive with victory in this week’s fourth Test in Mumbai but defeat will raise further questions about Alastair Cook’s future as captain.
The visitors must win at the Wankhede Stadium to stop top-ranked India from sealing the five-Test series with a match to spare following two consecutive defeats.
Virat Kohli’s side won by eight wickets in Mohali last week to take an unbeatable 2-0 series lead after victory in Viskhapatnam followed a draw in the first Test at Rajkot.
Anything less than a victory for England would see India exact revenge for their 2012 home series loss to Cook’s men and add to uncertainty surrounding the English skipper.
His future as captain has been in doubt since he admitted just before the tour that he could quit at the end of the Test series because he was finding it hard to be apart from his family for long periods.
After becoming a father for a second time last month, the 31-year-old left-handed opener said he found the long England tours difficult, while insisting he remained deeply proud of captaining his country.
Despite England’s travails in India, coach Trevor Bayliss said he expected Cook to be in charge for the Ashes tour at the end of 2017.
“He’s talking about the next Ashes series and being out in Australia,” Bayliss told BBC Sport.
“Sometimes there are little comments made along the way and they get blown out of all proportion. He’s certainly up for the fight. I haven’t had any discussion with him any other way and that’s what we’ve been working towards,” the Australian coach added.
Cook also received the backing of batsman Joe Root who hailed his skipper as a “brilliant leader”.
“Hopefully, we get these results we want in the last two games and we can put right what has been quite a frustrating last couple of weeks,” Root, 25, told reporters last week.
England’s chances of salvaging the series were dealt a blow however when teenage batting sensation Haseeb Hameed was ruled out of the remaining two matches after injuring his hand during the Mohali match.
The 19-year-old’s absence could mean a Test debut for opener Keaton Jennings. The 24-year-old South Africa-born left-handed batsman has been called up as Hameed’s replacement.
All-rounder Liam Dawson is also in contention for a place after being drafted in to replace left-arm spinner Zafar Ansari, who is struggling with a back injury he sustained in the second Test in Visakhapatnam.
England will be boosted by the likely return of fast bowler Stuart Broad who has recovered from a strained tendon in his foot.
India are expected to be able to call upon the services of opener Lokesh Rahul who has recovered from the injury that kept him out of the Mohali Test, according to India media reports.
His return threatens the involvement of Karun Nair who endured a disappointing Test debut in Mohali.
Wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel, who impressed with both bat and gloves in Mohali after eight years in the Test wilderness, is expected to keep his place as Wriddhiman Saha has yet to recover from a thigh strain.
Former Indian batsman Virender Sehwag expects India to be too strong for England but believes the visitors will not give up the series without a fight.
“I think we will win 3-0 as I expect England to show some resistance and that’s why I won’t predict 4-0,” he told the Press Trust of India news agency.
The final Test begins in Chennai on December 16.