England have a golden chance to end a difficult year on a dramatic high, yet appear wary of fighting talk as they approach the home straight of their four-Test series against India.
There was, in fact, an untypical reticence about many of Graeme Swann’s remarks as he assessed England’s prospects this week in Nagpur, where they can claim an historic 3-1 series success.
Alastair Cook’s team will not fall into the trap of talking a good game and then producing a bad one if Swann’s demeanour is anything to go by.
The off-spinner, expected to play a prominent role alongside Monty Panesar on a likely ‘result’ pitch, spoke in equal measure of England’s attacking intent and the threat still posed by a wounded India ahead of the fourth and final Test.
At the suggestion England’s hosts might be cornered, with a drawn series the best they can now salvage, he said: “It is tough, but sometimes it’s a good position to be in.
“If there’s only one possible result you can get, you can go all out fighting.
“The last Test of a series, if you know the result hangs on it, is normally a very exciting one.”
India have dropped three high-profile regulars from their squad after last week’s second successive defeat in Kolkata, but Swann is expecting a significant response.
“I’m sure India will come out fighting because they have to win the game,” he added. “Equally so, I’m sure we’ll approach the game thinking attack is our best form of defence.
“I think that’s what has proved crucial in the last couple of games.”
Swann has been in this situation before with England, when they turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-1 victory in 2010-11 to clinch the Ashes in Australia for the first time in almost a quarter-of-a-century.
It is still longer since they won a Test series in India.
“Back in Australia, we didn’t carried away before that Sydney game,” said Swann. “We spoke of how important it was to keep our feet on the ground. That’s all we’re doing here.
“People saying there is something special happening and things like that are very easy distractions to get caught up in. We’ll make sure we don’t do that.
“We’re not taking anything for granted, we don’t sit down and pat ourselves on the back and say ‘Look how well we have played the last two games’. That’s a very dangerous place to get in.
“On Thursday morning we’ll assess the pitch, play accordingly and hope to win this game, because we obviously want to get home for Christmas having won this series 3-1.
“Whatever the pitch is we’ve got to try and win the game, that’s all we ever try and do.”
Should England prevail, Swann believes it will be a vindication of the positive attitude with which they arrived here under new captain Cook two months ago and have sustained ever since.
Even a chastening 10-wicket defeat in the first Test did not deflect them from their purpose.
“After losing that game in Ahmedabad it’s very easy to get in that rut of losing games, travelling round losing another one, and you can’t wait to get home at the end of it rather than focus on winning the next game,” added Swann.
“There was a lot of focus and energy put towards ensuring that this tour was not going to be like that, whether it be from management or senior players talking in the room, it was made very clear that Mumbai was a chance to level the series.
“Anybody who didn’t see it that way wasn’t welcome in the dressing room.
“We have really tried to embrace India and embrace the series and believe we can win it and I’m not sure that has always been the case.
“I have only been on one Test tour here before, but there certainly seemed more belief from the outset on this one.”
Should England end 2012 with victory in Asia, it will be a far cry from the way they started it with a 3-0 whitewash against Pakistan in the Middle East, where their limitations against sub-continental spin were horribly evident.