India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane expects the Chepauk pitch to offer serious turn from the very first day of the second Test against England when his team would bid to level the four-match series and remain in contention for the World Test Championship final.

India lost the first Test by 227 runs on a deck that didn’t have anything for bowlers while the fresh pitch, with a darker and drier look, promises to be a spinners’ paradise in the game starting on Saturday.

“Yeah, it looks completely different. I am sure it will turn from day one but again as I have said before the first Test match, you have to wait and see how it plays in the first session and take it from there on,” Rahane said at the pre-match virtual conference on Friday.

“...but yeah we have to forget what happened in the first Test. We know these conditions really well and we have to put our best foot forward tomorrow and yeah that’s it,” Virat Kohli’s deputy added.

Despite hinting that left-arm spin bowling all-rounder Axar Patel is available for selection, Rahane didn’t divulge the playing XI.

“Everyone is in the mix and the good thing is Axar is fit and I am not going to tell you who is going to play tomorrow. See all our spinners are really good and given a chance they will all do really well,” Rahane kept cards close to his chest.

He also defended the spinners’ performance in the first Test and said that their first innings form wasn’t something that the team was overtly concerned about.

“If you see the first two days, there was nothing for our spinners and fast bowlers. Considering we bowled 190 overs and they scored 578 runs, I thought we really bowled well.

“There was nothing on that wicket. If you see second innings, all our spinners, especially Ashwin bowled really well. We are not too concerned about how our spinners are bowling and I am sure we will come out with a plan.”

About the 27 no balls and 31 dropped catches since the epic Australia series win, Rahane said that the issues remain a work in progress.

“We are really working hard on what we can control. In India, close-in catches are really important and sometimes these things happen. No one does it intentionally, it’s all about how confident you are. Close in catches are really important. About, no balls, yes we all were disappointed about the no balls and they are working really hard,” he added.

Rahane’s personal form has been a bit of an issue as he has struggled to get going since scoring the hundred in Melbourne. But the vice-captain played down those concerns.

“We are playing at home after two years. It’s all about the team, not about any individual. If you look at my last 10-15 Tests, you will find some runs there,” Rahane said.

Apart from Rahane, a lot has been made of Rohit Sharma’s struggles since returning to the side and Cheteshwar Pujara’s low strike rate. But the Indian vice-captain felt the two players have the team’s backing going into the second Test against England.

“Rohit Sharma is an important member of our team. He made important contributions in Australia. You can’t judge a player over 4-6 innings. You need to have faith in the players. We’re really happy to have Rohit in the team,” he said.

“No one within the team has an issue with Pujara’s approach. It doesn’t matter to us what people say outside. We know how much he contributed in Australia,” Rahane said about India’s No 3 batsman.

The Mumbai batsman also felt it was important for India to get the defeat in the first test out of their minds and focus on things they can do better. With fans returning to the stadium for the first time in Indian since the Covid-19 pandemic, it could be an advantage for the team.

“It’s important to not overthink after a defeat. We need to stay together as a team. Yes, England dominated the first Test and we respect that. Our focus is only on trying to improve moving forward,” he said.

“We are all really excited to have fans back. It means a lot to us,” he added when asked about the fans’ return for the second Test.

(With PTI inputs)

Watch Ajinkya Rahane’s full pre-match press conference below: