London: India captain Rahul Dravid hopes The Oval crowd will once again have reason to applaud the visiting side when the third and final Test against England gets underway here.
Dravid's men lead the series 1-0 and if they avoid defeat at the south London venue it will mean India have won only their third Test series in England since first touring the country in 1932.
For the 34-year-old Dravid, whose record of 9,425 runs at an average of nearly 57 with 24 hundreds makes him one of Test cricket's all-time great batsmen, this could be his last Test in England with India's next tour here not until 2011.
And that could also be the case for fellow batting stars Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly as well as 36-year-old leg-spinner Anil Kumble who heads into this match needing just three more wickets to move into third place in the list of leading Test wicket-takers, ahead of retired Australia quick Glenn McGrath.
Dravid, who five years ago scored 217 in a drawn Oval Test that saw England and India square a four-match series 1-1, told reporters at the ground on Wednesday: "I have some very good memories here.
"But five years have passed and this is a new game."
And he said playing in England where Test cricket, unlike in other parts of the world, generally takes place in front of packed crowds, had been a special experience.
"Test matches are very well attended. People come to watch, they genuinely enjoy the sport. They are very knowledgable about the sport and are very supportive of both teams.
"A lot of these grounds are steeped in history, so many of them have seen some great cricketers. So for us to follow in those footsteps has been very special. It's just been a pleasure to play here."
But he said the thought of becoming only the third India captain following Ajit Wadekar (1971) and Kapil Dev (1986) to lead the side to a series victory in England hadn't crossed his mind.
"I haven't thought about what it would mean and that this is our last Test match (in England)".
Dravid has had a poor series so far with just 59 runs at an average of under 20. However, he said: "If your team is winning it doesn't affect you that much."
India's seven-wicket second Test victory at Trent Bridge was tarnished by several unpleasant incidents on both sides, including England's now infamous jellybean stunt and excessive sledging.
But far more serious was the sight of Shanthakumaran Sreesanth delivering an illegal beamer at Kevin Pietersen and letting loose a no-ball bouncer, after overstepping by several feet, at Paul Collingwood.
On top of all this, the India fast bowler was fined 50 percent of his match fee for shoulder-barging England captain Michael Vaughan.
The gifted but often erratic Sreesanth was omitted Tuesday from India's squad for the forthcoming seven-match one-day internatiomal series but Dravid said he would be channel any disappointment into his bowling at The Oval.
"Sree is very focused on this Test match and he's keen to bowl well and move on from what happened at Trent Bridge."
Match referee Ranjan Madugalle said he would be speaking to both Dravid and Vaughan in the run-up to the series finale in a bid to make sure players upheld the spirit of the game.
"He (Madugalle) has had a friendly chat with me," said Dravid. "Conversations with match referees happen in all series. Nothing different happened here."
India have an unfortuante habit of squandering series leads, most recently in South Africa this year where they let slip a 1-0 advantage and lost 2-1.
"The challenge for our team is to back up a good performance with another good performance," said Dravid. "It takes a lot to win Test matches and it takes a lot more to win Test series."
India: Rahul Dravid (capt), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Zaheer Khan, R P Singh, Sreesanth, Anil Kumble, Ramesh Powar, Ranadeb Bose and Ishant Sharma
England: Michael Vaughan (capt), Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett, Monty Panesar, Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson.