October 24, 2011 15:56 GMT
Four matches, three emphatic wins and one efficient one. As little as a month ago if this phrase had been uttered about an India-England series - any series in any form of the game - it would have been most natural to assume that England were the victors. A continent, however, sometimes creates a world of difference. And India have completely reversed the script they had to suffer when they toured England. One more win will give them a white-wash - which is something Alastair Cook and England will want to avoid at all costs.
India: The hosts have been very impressive in the series so far. The only game in which they were stretched was the third ODI, but even there, it was only a stretch - it wasn't a chase that was ever careening out of control and had to be won through unbelievable heroics. MS Dhoni has batted thrice in the series, and he doesn't yet have an average since he's yet to be dismissed. Virat Kohli is the runaway leader in terms of runs scored and Varun Aaron has taken more wickets in his debut match than Graeme Swann has done in 3 matches so far in the series. India's domination has been total, and they haven't allowed England any extended periods of competitiveness. The team will be keen to win the final ODI too and ensure a white-wash, after the recent reverses suffered against England in England.
England: The visitors will be just as keen to avoid a white-wash as the hosts are on inflicting it - but from they sit now, it's a tall order. Winning a match on tour will give England some sort of moral victory since India didn't manage to win anything on their tour of England. But for that to happen, performances across the board need to improve out of sight for England. It might also help them if they realised that mouthing off at the opposition is unattractive even when you're winning - and downright silly when you're getting whipped. Their bowling has been a bigger issue than their batting, and they urgently need to set it right. Among the top 9 wicket-takers in the series, only 3 are English and only Steve Finn makes an appearance in the top 5. The batting hasn't been blameless, with too many starts wasted, and both departments need to overcome their flaws if their fortunes are to be changed.
England rested Graeme Swann on a pitch that turned at the Wankhede, and it'll be interesting to see if they bring him back. For India, Rahul Sharma and Manoj Tiwary haven't yet got a game, but they might continue to sit out if Dhoni and co decide that the best available eleven should be played to inflict a white-wash.
The weather forecast is for mostly sunny skies, so the rain that took the Champions League matches away from Kolkata should not be a factor. For MS Dhoni, while an ODI white-wash will not really compensate for the entire tour blanking that India were at the end of in England, it will go some way towards redemption. His reaction upon sealing the series in the third ODI said as much. He's not given to too many emotions but there was an unmistakable 'take that' in his demeanour when the series was won. For Alastair Cook, apart from wanting to avoid the ignominy of a white-wash, will be the challenge to inspire his team to give it their all - since subconsciously - with the series going badly - some of the English players might have already slacked off from giving it their all.