London: A crest-fallen Indian team returned to a relatively calmer London for the fourth and last cricket Test, starting Thursday, with high hopes against the just crowned World No.1 England as they enjoy an unbeaten record at The Oval. (Pics: Why India can do well at the Oval)
After humiliating defeats in the first three Tests - and in the process surrendering their No.1 status, the Indians can only look to a happy ending to the series. They can take heart from the fact that they have not lost a Test here in their last six visits.
It has been a tough series for India, who were never allowed to play to their potential by an aggressive England team. Barring former captain, Rahul Dravid, none in the famed Indian batting line-up could get a hundred and the team could not even cross the 300-run mark in any of the six innings.
Dravid, who has two centuries in the series, said India have to restore their pride by winning at The Oval.
"It has been a tough series for a combination of reasons. The pitches here have been conducive to good seam bowling and the quality of English bowling. All the three pacers have bowled exceptionally well. They bowled beautiful lengths and pitched the ball up," said Dravid.
"We have to win it. That is the objective. We are not the No.1 any more. The goal for us is to fight our way back there. It is about restoring some pride and show what we can do. But if we want to climb back to No.1 Test spot then every Test matters," he said.
While Dravid looked at ease against England pacers, other Indian batsmen, including the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, couldn't cope with the seaming English conditions. The series started with the hype around Tendulkar's 100th international century, but the batting maestro managed just one 50 in the series and is averaging 26.50.
While India are not expected to make several changes in their team at The Oval, but the technically sound Virat Kohli could come in place of Suresh Raina, who has looked completely out of sorts against genuine pace.
The Oval has the best batting track in England and that gives India some hope against the home pacers, rated the best in the world.
The good news for the English team is that their pace spearhead James Anderson, who has a stiff right thigh, went through the full net sessions on the eve of the match and is expected to lead the charge Thursday.
After the practice session, a visibly happy England captain Andrew Strauss said: "We are very optimistic he (Andersoon) is fit to play. He had a good bowl today, but like all these things we have to check how he comes up tomorrow morning. It just seems nothing more than a little niggle at this stage," said Strauss.
England players have played down their No.1 tag to stay focus on their endeavour for a 4-0 whitewash against India. Graeme Swann insists that England wants to finish off the one-sided series in style.
"It's a nice feeling (being a part of the top-ranked side) but it's not what we are focussing on. We said before the series it didn't matter if we got to number one in the world. It's about finishing the series well and that is what we are aiming to do at The Oval," he said.