India’s Ajinkya Rahane takes a breather during practice at M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday. This will be Rahane’s second match as Test skipper | Pushkar v
BENGALURU: There was an air of confidence in Ajinkya Rahane’s voice ahead of India’s one-off Test against Afghanistan on Thursday. It might have stemmed from the fact that the hosts are World No 1 in red-ball cricket and their record at home has been brilliant in the last couple of seasons.
Leading India in Virat Kohli’s absence, Rahane — who will be leading only for the second time in the longest format — does not want to take Afghanistan lightly. He is confident that his players will put up a good show despite the absence of some seniors.
His message to his players — who have been training rigorously for the last three days at the venue — seems to be a simple-but-strong one: dish out some ruthless cricket.
“As a Test team, we cannot take anyone for granted. Because cricket is a funny game. We just want to go out there; be ruthless. The way we have been playing throughout the season, especially in this format... we are going to focus on our strengths and positives, without thinking about Afghanistan. Yes, we respect them as an opponent. But it’s important for all of us to go out there and give more than 100 per cent.”
However, a big challenge that India players might face — besides Afghanistan’s spin threat — is the switch of format. Besides Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, the rest were part of IPL; a fact that adds more significance to their three days worth of training.
Rahane acknowledged that while explaining that the change of gears that he and his players had to execute was more of a mental task than physical.
“Over the last three days, our focus has been on tuning our minds, especially because we’re coming in after two months of IPL. Skill-wise, it won’t make a difference. But our attitude does if you have to make a quick switch from T20s to Tests in terms of mindset.”
Before Rahane goes for the toss on Thursday morning, he has some important decisions to make with regards to India’s playing XI. It will be interesting to see the final combination, especially the opening pair, with Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul being in contention. The same is the case with spinners, with R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav in the fray for making the final cut.
That may perhaps hinge on the pitch, which has not received much sunshine in the last couple of days. It has been cloudy, with some occasional showers too. There are forecasts of thunderstorm in the next few days. Fans will be hoping that the rain gods stay away and the historic match finishes without a glitch.