When you’re 2-0 down in a four-Test series, you don’t really want to find yourself at Edgbaston. This is as close to an English fortress as you get. Having first played here in 1902, England didn’t lose in Birmingham till 1975. The win-loss record is a formidable 23-8, and India have lost four times in their five visits. Only once have they crossed 300 in an innings.
The first of those trips to Birmingham in 1967 has a unique place in the history of Indian cricket. The match may have been lost by 132 runs – blame the batsmen who mustered a pathetic 92 in the first innings – but it represents the only time that the legendary spin quartet played together. Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan took 18 wickets between them as England were restricted to 298 and 203. Scorecard here.
It’s a measure of how times have changed that India could contemplate going into this game with an all-seam attack. They won’t, because of MS Dhoni’s well-documented problems with poor over-rates, but the very fact that it was a possibility tells you all you need to know about the decline of Indian spin.
Amit Mishra or Pragyan Ojha will start on Wednesday but neither has shown enough in the opportunities they’ve been given to put sustained pressure on Harbhajan Singh, himself so disappointing before the abdominal strain that ended his tour. Ojha has predominantly been used as a tourniquet option at one end, while Mishra has been plagued by no-ball and four-ball problems.
The harsh reality is that no Indian spinner right now would come close to a World XI. Graeme Swann and Saeed Ajmal, who both bowled so well at this venue last year, would both be ahead in the reckoning, as would a Sri Lankan or two. That, for a country so long associated with the quartet, is an especially bitter pill to swallow.
Dileep Premachandran is an Indian journalist who’s writing a regular blog for The Cricketer throughout the Test series. Follow him on Twitter at @SpiceBoxofEarth