NEW DELHI: A rampant India will look to create history in the fifth and final Test against England from Friday by piling more misery on Alastair Cook in what could be his last outing as the tourists’ skipper.
After completing an innings victory in the fourth Test on Monday in Mumbai, Virat Kohli’s men will become the first Indian team to go unbeaten in 18 matches by avoiding defeat in the series finale in Chennai.
The majestic Kohli, who is in the form of his life after striking his third double century of the year, is no mood to ease up on their beleaguered visitors.
After putting the outcome of the series beyond doubt, Kohli said India would now “really express ourselves fully” in Chennai and hope to make it 4-0 against opponents who had been something of a bogey team.
England had won their last three series against India, including their tour in 2012 at the start of Cook’s record-breaking tenure as captain.
Four years on, Cook’s appetite for the job is being increasingly called into question and the skipper himself has spoken of the possibility of stepping down while continuing to be available for selection as a batsman.
– Root ‘ready’ –
“If he still feels the same way he did when he started, if every defeat hurts him as much now as it did then, I believe he should carry on,” Nasser Hussain, one of Cook’s predecessors, wrote in the Daily Mail.
“But if any part of him feels as if he’s taking the job for granted, then he should have a serious think about handing it over to Joe Root. It’s not a job you do lightly.”
After the Mumbai Test, Cook said he had still to decide on his future but he raised eyebrows by declaring that Joe Root — his most likely successor — should be ready to take on the task.
“You start having questions, of course you do,” said Cook as he was quizzed about whether he wanted to soldier on after 58 Tests as captain.
“I think Joe Root is ready to captain England. He’s ready because he’s a clued-up guy, he’s got the respect of everyone in the changing room.
“He hasn’t got much captaincy experience but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a very good captain.”
England coach Trevor Bayliss is among those hoping that Cook does decide to remain captain, describing the speculation around his future as an unwelcome distraction.
“I think everyone, to a man, in the dressing room would be disappointed if he wasn’t captain,” Bayliss was quoted as saying by website cricinfo.
“But when it’s constantly in the media all the time, it’s a bit of a pain in the backside.”
– King Kohli –
While Cook considers whether to abdicate, his counterpart — dubbed King Kohli by the Indian media — appears increasingly confident on the throne.
He now has a chance of setting a new Indian record for the most runs in a series after scoring 640 in the first four Tests, with Sunil Gavaskar’s 774 on the 1971 tour of West Indies coming into view.
Kohli is one of several Indian players who have had outstanding series, including spinner Ravichandran Ashwin who has taken 27 wickets.
“The team is exceptional in terms of intensity and situational awareness. Everyone has contributed to the success. This team is special,” said India coach Anil Kumble.
India are expected to be unchanged but England could bring in an extra spin bowler on a pitch that is expected to turn, with Cook admitting it was a mistake to only pick two specialist spinners in Mumbai.
England will be hoping Stuart Broad, who missed the last two Tests with a foot injury, will be available with his stand-in Jake Ball only taking one wicket in Mumbai.
India (from): Virat Kohli (capt), Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Parthiv Patel, Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Amit Mishra, Bhuvenshwar Kumar
England (from): Alastair Cook (capt), Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, Steven Finn, James Anderson, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Gareth Batty, Stuart Broad, Liam Dawson, Ben Duckett, Keaton Jennings