Ahead of the four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy, starting with the first Test in Adelaide from December 17, India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane is optimistic about his team's chances in Australia.
Rahane made it clear that India has the firepower to tame Australia at home. Even though there are debates over the opening combination for the first Test, Rahane said that a decision will be taken on Wednesday.
"Everyone's equally good. We have not decided on our combination, we will sit tomorrow. There is one more practice session to go. Everyone is equally talented. Whoever plays can win matches, it is about trusting the players," Rahane said at a virtual media interaction on Tuesday.
When India won its first-ever Test series in 2018, the pacers played a key role. But this time, the team will miss the services of Ishant Sharma. Ishant had regained fitness after injuring himself during IPL 2020, but he still had to build up workload and hence was ruled out of the series.Rahane, however, is confident that the other pacers have the experience and talent to put the opponents in trouble.
"We do have a strong attack. We will miss Ishant, he is a senior fast bowler. But the guys who are here - Umesh (Yadav), (Navdeep) Saini, (Mohammad) Siraj with Jasprit and Shami - are all experienced and they know how to bowl in these conditions. It is all about bowling in partnerships for us."
"We all know we did really well last time (in 2018). This is a new series starting with the pink ball, it's about getting the momentum. We have the attack to get 20 wickets. For us, it's important to start well and stay in the present. Just focusing on the pink ball Test and then focusing on the remaining matches."
Rahane also believes that seasoned Ravichandran Ashwin will play an important role - with bat and ball. "Ashwin's role will be very important, he is experienced and has got variety in his bowling. His role as a bowler and as a batsman will be really important. I am sure he will have a very good series," Rahane said.
India reached Australia a month in advance and played a couple of practice games, before gearing up for the Test series. And that, Rahane feels, has helped the side. "We came here a month before. The quarantine was challenging. Luckily, we got practice sessions, that was good. The preparation was really good. We got time this year to practise and plan really well. The two practice matches helped us before the first Test match. We are looking forward to starting well in this series," the India vice-captain stated.
Asked about batting down the order, Rahane said: "When you bat at No.5, No.6, you have to read the situation and play accordingly. For me, it is all about playing with intent and what the team demands from me in that situation. I visualise that and play accordingly. Intent does not mean going out there and playing all the shots, it comes with defence and leaving the ball. A positive mindset is very important."
After the first Test, India captain Virat Kohli will leave for India to be with his wife Anushka Sharma, who is expecting their first child. So, in his absence, Rahane is set to take charge of the team, but for now, he does not want to think too much about it. "I believe in staying in the present. Right now, Virat is our captain. We think about this Test match and then after that, when he leaves, we will discuss our plans. For me, it's about giving my best in this Test match and helping Virat out," he said.
The year 2020 did not start well for Rahane as he struggled in New Zealand, but over the last eight months, he has trained hard and that has helped him get his batting back in shape. "As a player, you go through ups and downs. For me, out of 10 Test matches, I did really well in eight matches. For me, during the lockdown, fitness and diet were the priority. After coming here, it was about getting used to the conditions, the pitches and the bounce. Now, it is all about getting into the match zone and giving my best for the team," Rahane said.
While he is confident of his team's chances, Rahane admits that it is never easy to play the Aussies at home. "They are a very good team. Playing against Australia at home is always a challenge. Yes, they have got a few good youngsters and they know their conditions really well. We have played against them in practice games. Their team is really good and balanced. We have to respect them and play to our potential. That is the key in this series."
In every series, it is important to start well and this time, the challenge is different since the series will begin with the pink-ball Test. "Getting used to the conditions is really important and playing as a team is the key," he said.
Most players have been inside a bio-bubble for six months now, but they have remained positive in their approach. "When you play for your country, you don't need to tell anyone anything. That's the motivation. Luckily in Australia, the situation is much better. Now, it is about thinking about the series rather than focusing on other things," Rahane said.
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