Perhaps Virat Kohli said it best after the humbling defeat at Adelaide.
“We can’t go any lower. From this point on, we can only go up,” Kohli had said after the Indian innings ended on a record 36/9.
But to go up, India will need to find the right mindset during the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. It won’t be easy but stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane and coach Ravi Shastri will have to lead from the front.
In a press conference ahead of the second Test, Rahane stressed the importance of staying in the moment instead of focussing too much on the Adelaide debacle.
“Staying in the moment will really help us going forward in the MCG Test,” said Rahane.
He further added: “The last couple of net sessions, the preparations have been really good. Talking about the last Test, we had two good days and just one bad session where we lost it completely. We want to stick to the same plans that we had in the first Test.”
Tough situations bring out the best in good cricketers and Rahane wants his team to be able to go out and express themselves in the middle.
“Such things happen but how you come back from them is what is important,” said Rahane. “We had one bad session. We don’t want anyone to take too much pressure. We want them to just go out and express themselves.”
It would not have been easy for Kohli to leave the team after the defeat in the first Test but the skipper made it a point to speak to everyone before leaving for India for the birth of his first child.
“Kohli spoke to all of us before leaving,” said Rahane. “He asked us to stay positive, stay in the moment, and enjoy each other’s success as we always have.”
With Mohammed Shami also out injured, there will be a lot of pressure on Jasprit Bumrah to get India the breakthroughs with the new ball.
But the scenario may also see him getting overworked. Rahane, though, is confident that the other bowlers will step up as well.
“Jasprit is a quality bowler and he has been doing well for us. Umesh has also been around for a while but it is about bowling in partnerships and bowling to a plan,” said Rahane.
Australia coach Justin Langer had on Thursday said he would be “happy” if the Indian team is under a bit of stress after the humiliating defeat in the first Test and would like to put pressure on Rahane, who is taking charge in absence of 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 individuals,” Rahane said.
“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,” said the dependable middle-order batsman.
“I think what I want to do is back my team. So focus is not on me, it is all about team and how we want to do well as a team. We are focussing on that.”
Rahane said one hour of poor cricket on the third morning in Adelaide doesn’t define this team.
“Talking about last Test match, see comparatively we had two good days, just one bad hour, where we actually lost it completely,” he said.
“The chat was all about backing ourselves as individuals and as team, play to our strengths and whatever we have planned in the first Test match just stick to that.”
So any specific areas that the batsmen worked 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.
India had won at MCG last time around and Rahane reckons the wicket will be a bit different this time.
“See generally MCG is ... 2018 was 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.
Watch the press conference here:
Rahane added that he had apologised to Kohli after his horrible mix-up with him led to the India captain’s game-changing run out in Adelaide.
Kohli was looking solid before the suicidal run out for 74 on the opening day at Adelaide Oval. Upon realising that there was no run in it, Rahane decided to send back Kohli but it was too late by then.
What followed was an inexplicable batting collapse, due to which the visitors crumbled to 244 all out in the first innings that was followed by their lowest Test score of 36 in their second innings.
“After the end of day’s play I went and said sorry to him (Kohli) but he was all okay, he was okay about it,” Rahane said.
“We both understood that the situation we were in, we were going well at that point, but such things happen in cricket, you got to respect that and you got to move forward.”
Rahane admitted that the run out handed Australia the momentum as they recorded an eight-wicket win inside two and half days.
“It was a really tough one, obviously we were going really well that moment, our partnership was good, and I could actually see that momentum going towards Australia after that run out,” Rahane said.
Kohli, who has now returned to India for the birth of his first child, had backed Rahane to lead from the front in his absence in the remainder of the four-match series.
“I have said this previously as well that I feel like this is his (Rahane’s) time to really step up and perform strongly as an individual and then as a captain as well,” Kohli had said.
(With PTI inputs)
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