India will be a confident unit when it squares off against England in the first of four Tests in home conditions. The side was last beaten in a red-ball series in its backyard, way back in 2012. To put things in perspective, England captain Joe Root, who will be playing his 100th game in the longest format on Friday at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, made his debut in that very Tour.
However, skipper Virat Kohli, during a virtual media interaction on the eve of the game, indicated there was no place for complacency when it comes to his team's chances in India. "When you keep winning, the challenges get bigger. You have to up your game further then. Longevity, consistency, and success are the secrets to playing at this level. We will carry the same intensity, belief and determination on the field tomorrow, as we did in Australia," he said.
The 32-year-old also confirmed that wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant will start ahead of Wriddhiman Saha and "continue to be backed" after his match-winning performances Down Under. He said, "He (Pant) has had impact performances in Australia recently. He's hit a good space and we want him to build on this. We want him to improve in all aspects of the game which will happen with more game time and the confidence he gains while playing those games. He has been working hard. He got the results eventually. He is someone we have backed quite a lot for good reason. He will continue to be backed. He will continue to be a match-winner for India and someone, who the opposition will always be wary of."
Kuldeep in the scheme of things
Kohli believes Kuldeep Yadav, who played his last Test match against Australia in January 2019, will now be part of plans owing to the added turn that sub-continent tracks seem to offer.
"It is a delicate balance you need to have between understanding what the team goals are and communicating it to individuals as to how the game stands and what we are looking to do as a team... what the team's plans are and where do they feature in the plans.
"Kuldeep has been out of the longest format for a while now. In New Zealand, the conditions were not suited to play three spinners. But now that the home season starts, he will be in the scheme of things. Kuldeep has worked on certain areas he needed to during Australia (series). He is fitter. His bowling is more improved."
'Prefer bowlers who can bat'
India will stick to plans of giving more opportunities to bowlers who can keep the scoreboard ticking when required. Kohli said that was the only reason why Axar Patel got the nod ahead of Shahbaz Nadeem.
"We will try to give as many options as possible as far as bowling combination is concerned. Guys (Bowlers) having the ability to bat as well, that has been the pattern of success for us in home conditions over the last few years. And that continues to be the case this time as well. It is a normal Chepauk pitch. Quite a nice batting track, with spinners getting assistance eventually in the game. But the track is good enough for the fast bowlers also. It is a generally good cricketing wicket."
'Not thinking about WTC final'
New Zealand has qualified for the World Test Championship (WTC) final, set to be played in June, after Australia's tour of South Africa was postponed indefinitely due to health concerns. India and England are both in contention for a berth at the showpiece event, with the former needing at least two wins to make the cut. However, much like deputy Ajinkya Rahane, Kohli didn't seem too concerned about Lord's 2021 just yet.
"Not really [I don't think a WTC spot, up for grabs, adds to the pressure]. In the Australia series, we didn't speak about winning because of WTC. It is a byproduct anyway. There's no point adding extra pressure as a team. For us, it is just the game of cricket, one session at a time, one hour at a time, and that is how success is achieved in the longer format of the game. No point thinking about something that's months away. We should focus on the present."