England look to play with more aggression

"It’s quite nice coming to the ground that we have good memories about. But clearly, it doesn’t count for much now apart from the feel good factor. There aren’t too many guys in this side who were there," says England skipper Alastair Cook.

England captain Alastair Cook speaks to his team-mates during a practice session ahead of the fourth Test against India at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.   -  K. R. DEEPAK

Before leaving for Dubai for the mid-tour break, England coach Trevor Bayliss had stressed on the importance of England batsmen being more positive at the crease. Alastair Cook and his boys could not have asked for a better venue than the Wankhede Stadium to shed the ghosts of Visakhapatnam and Mohali. The Wankhede Stadium has been a happy hunting ground for England and its batsmen can draw inspiration from Kevin Pietersen’s marauding 186 here that turned the series in his team’s favour four years ago.

“As part of the leadership group, we sat down with Trevor and a couple of other coaches at the end of the Mohali game and discussed how we wanted to play. We played well in the first game in Rajkot where we scored at 3.5 runs an over,” Cook said on Wednesday, ahead of the fourth Test of the five-match series.

“We have to take that second innings in Vizag out of our heads. But I wonder whether that did kind of tie into the third game and there was a bit of a hangover and we did go back into our shells a bit. After chatting around, there was a message that we wanted to play with more aggression.”

After piling up 537 runs at 3.36 runs an over, and following it up with 260 for three in 75-odd overs before declaring in the second innings of the first Test in Rajkot, England’s scoring rate has dipped sharply. The team scored at three runs an over in only one of the four innings that followed.

According to India coach Anil Kumble, a combination of bowlers’ skills and innovative field setting by captain Virat Kohli enabled the host to tie down the England batsmen. “It is a tribute to our bowling attack and the field that Virat has set as captain. I think it is a tribute to the way we have been able to set fields and also bowl accordingly in partnerships, and not one particular bowler,” he had said on Tuesday. “If you look at the last three Test matches, all the five bowlers have played a significant role, whether it was providing the breakthroughs or picking up a five-for; Ashwin did that.”

England has had happy memories at the Wankhede Stadium. In 2006, Andrew Flintoff’s men scripted a famous 212-run victory against all odds. In 2012, England, captained by Cook, registered a comprehensive 10-wicket win on the back of Pietersen’s brilliant innings.

“It’s quite nice coming to the ground that we have good memories about. But clearly, it doesn’t count for much now apart from the feel good factor,” Cook said. “There aren’t too many guys in this side who were there. Mumbai has historically been a good ground for us.”