On Friday, Indian stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane said he would rather concentrate on his team than think about the “mind games” of Australia ahead of the Boxing Day Test starting here on Saturday.
On Thursday, Australia coach Justin Langer said he would be happy if the Indian team were under a bit of stress after the humiliating loss in the first test and would like to put pressure on Rahane, who is taking over in the absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli.
“Australians are very good at playing mind games and I will let them do that. We are focussing on ourselves, what we want to do as a unit and we are going to back our every individual,” said Rahane on the eve of the game.
Rahane repeated his responses in a loop that was all about “playing to your strengths and backing each other” not as articulate or eloquent as Kohli.
“It is a proud moment for me leading India, obviously it is a great opportunity, responsibility as well but I don’t want to take any pressure, “It’s a proud moment for me to lead India, it’s obviously a great opportunity, responsibility as well, but I don’t want to take any pressure.
“I think what I want to do is back my team. So focus is not on me, it is all about the team and how we want to do well as a team. We are focussing on that.”
Even skipper Kohli urged Rahane to be himself and play fearless cricket before leaving for India for the birth of his child.
“Yeah, Virat spoke to all of us, before leaving. We had our team dinner in Adelaide, so he spoke to all of us about staying in the moment, playing for each other and yeah enjoying each other’s success and help each other out on the field.”
Rahane said that one hour of bad cricket in Adelaide on the third morning doesn’t describe this team.
He said, “Talking about last Test match, see comparatively we had two good days, just one bad hour, where we actually lost it completely,”
“The chat was all about backing ourselves as an individual and as a team, play to our strengths and whatever we have planned in the first Test match just stick to that.”
Shubman Gill, the young opener, will make his second test debut and Rahane said he wants to give independence to him and Mayank Agarwal and not bring them under undue pressure.
See the position of the openers, not just in Australia, but everywhere is really important, I don’t want to put any pressure on our openers, I just want to give them the freedom to play their game.
“… When you have that relationship going, when you have that base, then it’s very easy for the batsmen to come.
Mohammed Siraj will also make his Saturday debut and Rahane called him “equally talented” even though he did not name him as before India released their playing XI, the interaction with the media happened.
Rahane expects to form a formidable partnership between Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav as he guides the unit from the gully where he will be stationed.
They are also equally talented, apart from Jasprit, Umesh (Yadav), and the guy (Siraj) who will play tomorrow instead of (Mohammed) Shami.
“Umesh has been doing really well for so many years, so it is all about bowling in partnerships for us.”
[email protected] on @imVkohli’s message for #TeamIndia before his departure. #AUSvIND https://t.co/nui9nKZvU6
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1608881626000
So, are there any particular areas the batsmen were working on?
“Nothing really special, we have to back our basics, back our plans, as I said earlier, we just had one bad hour, so it is all about staying positive, backing your own ability and batting in partnerships,” Rahane said.
In the last 73 years, India has won three tests at the MCG and Rahane estimates that this time the wicket would be a little different.
“See generally MCG is … 2018 was a slightly different wicket, but generally when we played here in 2014 and the other teams when they played here, it is actually a very good wicket, plays really well,” Rahane said.
As India has two spinners on board, it is likely that there might be a turn-on bid.
“Tomorrow will be different. We don’t know that we have to go and see and adapt to the wicket as quick as possible.”