India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane on Tuesday tagged Australia as the favourites ahead of the first Test and said the visitors will have to come up with long partnerships to win their maiden series Down Under.
Rahane cited the example of his 262-run partnership with Virat Kohli at Melbourne in 2014-15 and said that the Australian focus on the India’s star batsman helps other batsmen do their job silently at the other end.
“Each and every batsman’s role will be to contribute for the team and I think for us it is important to get those long partnerships together (like last time). That will be really helpful in (winning the series) in Australia,” said Rahane.
“Last time both of us really enjoyed that partnership at the MCG. Mitchell Johnson was going after Virat Kohli and I was enjoying from the end as well as playing my own game. Virat at the other end was really aggressive and going after the bowlers, verbally as well.
“That really helped me focus on my game and I played my natural attacking game at the other end. But I was still batting completely opposite to Virat. As an individual you have to understand that everyone’s role is completely different. This is a team sport and Virat also understands that.”
The Indian batting line-up has come under immense criticism for their twin failures in South Africa and England, wherein Kohli was the only one to defy the opposition.
“People will criticise or appreciate, but for us it matters to stay together in difficult times. In England conditions were really challenging and even English batsmen struggled a lot. Apart from Alastair Cook’s last Test innings, no one scored (big runs) for them. So it is important not to focus on criticism or even on people who appreciate,” said Rahane.
“It is important to start fresh in each and every series. In England and South Africa, we learnt a lot and there are definitely areas to improve. When you tour abroad, in countries like England, South Africa and Australia, it is important to start well.”
When asked about his personal growth as a batsman since he first came here as part of the 2014-15 touring party, Rahane said, “As a batsman in 2014, personally I thought I did really well but what the team’s performance matters more. When you do well as a team, you feel really good.”
His focus is on playing long.
“Personally I learnt a lot from last tour (in Australia). In South Africa, Johannesburg match was really crucial for me. I thought I did well.
“In England I got a couple good starts 80-odd in Nottingham and another half-century in Southampton. For me as a number five batsman, it is important to convert those starts into big hundreds rather than thinking about targets.”
There is also intense spotlight on the Australian batting line-up and how they will cope in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner. Rahane said that playing at home, Australia start as favourites.
“I feel any team that plays at home is really good and Australia are still favourites to win the series. Yes they will miss Smith and Warner but I don’t think they are vulnerable. Look at their bowling attack they have really good bowlers. When you have to win Test matches and Test series you have to have a good bowling attack.
“Definitely Smith and Warner are quality players, and I will not take anything away from them. But on a given day anyone can score runs. Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch are equally dangerous in their conditions. They know how the wicket behaves and it is all about intent as batsmen.”
After enjoying a day off on Monday, India got down to business in a bid to prepare for the first Test. All top-order batsmen had an intense work out in the nets, with the team management likely to go in with six full-time batsmen.
The new-ball bowlers Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma worked up intense pace in the nets and troubled the likes of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay.
Rahane said that irrespective of whether there is another specialist batsman after him or not, his role in the side is to bat as long as possible and convert his starts/half-centuries into tall scores.
“When you bat at number four or five, it is important to give yourself some time, first 15-20 minutes, and you should visualise the situation from dressing room. You cannot just sit around in the dressing room and keep thinking.
“Then, when you bat with lower-order batsmen, you perhaps know whether to attack or play a defensive game and have a partnership with those guys.
“Kookaburra ball, after 30-35 overs, is relatively easy to bat against. When you bat in England against Duke’s ball, you know you are never set in those conditions. You have to go with a positive mindset whether you have a regular number six batsman or not. You have to have that intent, he signed off.