Ajinkya Rahane: ‘We’re not going to take Afghanistan lightly’

India will look to play to its strengths in Bengaluru, says the stand-in captain.

Eye on the job: Ajinkya Rahane looks on at a practice session ahead of India’s one-off Test.   -  PTI

The last time Ajinkya Rahane led India in a Test — against Australia in Dharamsala — it crushed its opponent. Now, with regular captain, Virat Kohli, out of the side with injury, the onus is once again on Rahane to deliver.

The Mumbai batsman is confident of his team’s chances against Afghanistan in the one-off Test. While he did not divulge what the strategy of the team would be against a spin-heavy adversary, Rahane made it clear that for the side, it is just another Test match.

The excerpts…

On leading a Test team after a year and a half

It is an honour for all of us to be part of this Test match. It is a big moment for Afghanistan cricket as well. First Test match is always special and we all know that. Personally, I am excited to lead my team. It is an honour for me as well to be captaining in this Test match.

On what the team combination would be for the Test

I am not sure yet. I am going to discuss that with Ravi bhai (Ravi Shastri), but the team we have is really good. The guys are really good and are quite experienced. A couple of practice sessions in Bengaluru was fantastic. Coming back from [the Indian Premier League,] it was important to train our minds and skills. Getting back to Test cricket from [Twenty20] is all about tuning your mind rather than focusing on your skills. We are not going to take Afghanistan lightly. They have some good bowlers; we are not sure of our combination yet.

On whether the team is feeling the pressure of Afghanistan

It is like any other Test match for us. We cannot take any team lightly or for granted, because cricket is a funny game. We need to go out there and play the way we have been playing through the season, especially in this format. We are going to focus on our strengths and positives; we are not thinking of Afghanistan at all. We respect them [and] it is important for us to give more than 100 per cent.

Read: 'Excited' Afghanistan gears up for India challenge

On what he expects from the wicket

We will have to wait and see. As a home team, it is important that you play to your strength but we don’t know what happens [on Thursday].

On Asghar Stanikzai’s comments that Afghanistan has better spinners than India

Every member of a team believes that their batting unit or bowling attack is much better, but for us, it is important that we don’t focus on statistics. In Test cricket, each and every session matter a lot. It is important to give your best every time. Our spinners — Kuldeep [Yadav], [R.] Ashwin and [Ravindra] Jadeja — are all experienced. They back each other and enjoy bowling with each other in the nets and in the match. It is important to understand what is your mindset and how good you handle the pressure.

On how challenging it is to lead a country as compared to an IPL franchise?

When you are leading your country, it is altogether a different experience. In franchise league, the challenge is that the players come from different parts of the world. As a leader, you have to know how to handle them individually — how to get the best from them, so that has taught me a lot. I have learnt a lot of captaincy from Rajasthan Royals.

On Dinesh Karthik returning to the side after eight years

The way he [has] batted is great. His form will help us and of course his experience. In domestic cricket, he has been good. Coming back after so long is a special thing and it is good to have DK back.

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