India’s lower order recognises the need to contribute with the bat in the five-Test series against England and is preparing for it earnestly in the nets, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane said during a press conference ahead of the first Test in Nottingham.
India’s tail, and especially its fast-bowling unit, isn’t known to provide resistance with the bat, and in close, see-saw contests like the ones in the U.K. during India’s 2018 tour, decisive contributions with the bat from the lower order can make a difference. The likes of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran batted well in 2018, for example, handing England a decisive edge in the closely fought series which the home team eventually pocketed 4-1.
India’s tail had capitulated quickly, comparatively, three years ago but it may not be the same story this time, felt Rahane.
“[All the fast bowlers are] putting their effort in the nets; they all want to contribute 20-30 runs in the end which matter a lot. It is a very good sign; they all are going into the nets and wanting to bat,” Rahane said.
“Result comes later; what is important is following your process, keep working hard, what you want to contribute as a member of the team. The fast bowlers are doing it really well for us. We all are confident about them. If they get to bat, I’m sure they will contribute. We have faith in all of them,” he said.
Rahane said the consideration of batting depth wouldn’t bother the team management unduly when team combinations have to be decided for the Tests ahead. “Out of India, when we want to win the series, for a particular Test match, we have to play a certain combination. We are not too concerned about playing five bowlers or four bowlers. We have to assess the wicket tomorrow, and then see what combination we can go with,” he said.
One game at a time
India hasn’t defeated England in a Test series in the U.K. since 2007, and Rahane acknowledged the difficulty of facing one of the best Test teams in the world in its own den. He felt the team would need to focus on one game at a time rather than look at the task from the point of view of the entire series, and that getting used to the conditions quickly would be key to success.
“When you play away from home, there’s always a challenge. England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa…wherever…it’s all about putting our best foot forward and getting used to the conditions very quickly. I thought in 2018, we played very good cricket but the result didn’t go our way. We played some good cricket,” he said.
Underlining the importance of excelling with the bat in seaming conditions, he said, “In England, these are challenging conditions for batsmen. Everyone has their different plans in their batting, and we back each and every individual to bat in their own method, rather than focusing too much about technique or about anything else.”
“It’s all about playing as a group; communication will be the key as a batting unit. But individually, everyone should back their own methods in England because the conditions change quickly. When the sun is out, in 15-20 minutes, it is overcast. So it is all about getting used to the conditions quickly, handling those conditions well, and backing your own methods. As a batting unit, we’re ready to do it,” he said.
Rahane said he is fully fit for the Tests ahead. Commenting on his own preparations, he said, “Preparations have been really good so far for me. Even when I was not playing the three-day game (in Durham), I was practising on the side and we had a couple of good practice sessions. I’m completely ready to play.”
The five-Test series has required the team to be part of yet another bio-bubble to avoid getting infected with COVID-19. And more are to follow soon for many players, as the second leg of IPL 2021 beckons, before the T20 World Cup in October. Rahane admitted these were challenging times for players, and he said his team respected Ben Stokes’ decision to pull out of the Test series to protect his mental health.
“Bubbles are really challenging from a players’ point of view,” Rahane said.
“What Ben Stokes said, it was his call. You got to understand the players’ mindset as well; it is all about how he is feeling, because when you play at the highest level, you want to give your best, more than 100 percent, and your mental health matters a lot. We respect that, we respect his decision. I’m sure his England team-mates also respect his decision. You have to understand what a player is going through in that difficult moment. Yes, it is tough, it is challenging as a player, as a team, to be in the bubble continuously and to give your best all the time takes a lot.”