We are delighted that England are playing at Eden Gardens. They will almost certainly lose here, but that’s not the point. It’s simply one of the great sports grounds and to have the opportunity to play here is something in itself.
Recent Tests at Eden Gardens in Kolkata
If you’re looking for England wins, you’re almost certainly in the wrong place. India’s last defeat came against Pakistan in 1999 and since then, they have five wins and two draws. The last two victories have been by an innings and India have topped 600 in their first innings in each of the last three matches.
The 2007 Test against Pakistan was a high-scoring draw from which we learn little. Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble were the only bowlers to see any real success, but that’s no great surprise.
In 2010, South Africa went from 218-1 to 296 all out in their first innings. Sehwag, Tendulkar and Dhoni then made hundreds before Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra chipped away at Hashim Amla’s batting partners to secure a massive victory. It was the archetypal Indian home Test win: stacks of patience when batting and bowling and that ability to suddenly shift into fifth gear the minute the opposition blinks (only without the stalling and complete inability to accelerate to an appropriate speed). It also set the series up beautifully.
Last year’s innings defeat of West Indies is slightly more encouraging for England in a weird way. India made 631-7 at four runs an over, which isn’t too reassuring. However, it wasn’t all spin. Although R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha did the bulk of the bowling, Umesh Yadav managed to pick up seven wickets.
It’s notable that Yadav only bowled 24 overs in the whole of that last match (Ashwin and Ojha each bowled 54) and there’s a lesson there – fast bowlers only remain effective when fresh. It’s tempting to give them a couple more overs, but using them as the default bowling option – as a captain might in England – is counterproductive.
Even so, it takes some optimism to foresee an England win at one of cricket’s other homes. But that doesn’t matter – hopefully there’s a good crowd in, because that’s what Eden Gardens is really about. So what if it inspires India. That’s what makes the spectacle compelling and that’s what would make an unlikely away win so memorable.