India are “mentally tough” to deal with the bubble life during coronavirus pandemic as they prepare to take on England in a Test series starting Friday, vice captain Ajinkya Rahane said.
Rahane, one of the heroes of India’s upset series triumph in Australia last month, also said that he was happy to have captain Virat Kohli back in the side.
Athletes have spoken about the mental strain of playing bio bubble matches when they are stuck in hotels and stadiums for months on end since the pandemic erupted a year ago.
But Rahane said India are “not mentally tired at all”.
“We are really tough mentally. We are as a unit, we are as a family,” Rahane told a virtual press conference from the team headquarters in Chennai where the first two of the Tests will be played.
“We are enjoying each other’s company here, we are enjoying time in the team room. Our families are here, which is really important, it is really good.”
Whilst highlighting that India would respect England, particularly after their 2-0 win in Sri Lanka, he said: “We are not at all tired and we are really mentally tough.”
India-England series is always one of the most watched in cricket but these four games take on particularly importance with a place in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand at stake. But Rahane, while calling New Zealand deserved finalists, said India’s focus is on one Test at a time.
Opponents England, who have just spent one month in Sri Lanka, have been rotating players to avoid coronavirus burnout. Several members of the squad have admitted though having a tough time on repeat tours over the past year.
Rahane was India’s captain for the three Tests when they fought back from a defeat in the opening game to win the Australia series.
With Kohli returning from paternity leave, Rahane will revert to vice captain though he will be a candidate to take over if there are any slip-ups.
“My job is to take a back seat and try to help Virat,” said the 32-year-old batsman.
“There are too many things in a captain’s mind, so as the vice captain you have to visualise the situation, think about what can happen in the game. If Virat asks you for suggestions you should be ready.”
Rahane pledged his loyalty to the team leader and insisted his job was “very easy”.
“Virat is the captain, he left Australia for family reasons and that is why I became the captain.
“But originally Virat is the captain and I am the vice captain so I am really happy that he is back with us.
“It is really positive. As a team we are just focusing on playing together, playing as a unit and playing to our strengths.”
Without disclosing team plans, Rahane did drop a hint that Indians are bracing for a spin-friendly wicket at the Chepauk.
“I think the Indian wickets will always suits any spinner, so yes we know we are playing in India, we back our strengths. But we have to wait and watch, how it (the pitch) behaves from day one, but in India there is always assistance for spinners.”
Hardik Pandya had his first training session on the day and Rahane evaded questions whether the all-rounder was bowling at the nets.
“He is working really hard on his game, as a bowler and also as a batsman,” was all he said.
He agreed that minor adjustments will be required as the action shifts from Australia to India but he is personally confident about his own batting.
“Yes, little bit adjustments needed, but at the moment, I have been batting really well. It is all about what the team requires in that particular situation and bat accordingly.
“For me, it is all about contribution for the team rather than thinking about my own performance or my own outcome. So I will give my 100 per cent, whatever the team requires in that certain situation and I feel really good about my batting.”
The top England players like Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes may all be IPL regulars but it doesn’t mean that they always get the full picture of how Indian cricket functions, Rahane said.
“See, we definitely play in the IPL, but Test cricket and IPL are completely different. We do know how their bowlers bowl here, but length (that one bowls) is completely different in Test cricket from what they are in white ball (formats),” Rahane said.
“What we do in IPL, it’s not like we tell them all the things and I think that is very important. Yes, we have played a lot of cricket together, but when you represent the country, it is all about how best you can give individually and as a team,” Rahane said.
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