Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane is banking on a good performance from the team in the first Test to set the tone for a long home season. The batsman hoped that the Kanpur wicket would assist the Indian spinners although he did not dismiss New Zealand's “three good spinners” out of the equation.
Speaking to the media days ahead of the first Test against New Zealand, Rahane called it “exciting times” for Indian cricket. The batsman looked back at the West Indies series, which India won, before speaking about the home series and said, "It is exciting times for us with the 13 Tests scheduled at home. The West Indies tour went well for us. Some players also featured in the Duleep Trophy before the New Zealand series. We feel we are in pretty good space at the moment.”
It will be important to play series by series. We know our conditions here. Having said that, it is important that we respect the opponents in all the 13 Tests.
India are set to face tough tests back to back over the next few months. The three-Test series against New Zealand will be followed by series against England, Australia, and Bangladesh.
As expected, pitches occupy central space in any India tour, and as expected, India did not allow New Zealand a chance to acclimatize to its turning tracks - in their warm-up match, the Kiwis were offered a green top, in what can only be a calculated move.
However, Rahane insisted that the team is not focusing on the conditions although the pitch for the first Test is expected to be a rank-turner.
"Every day (of the game) the pitch behaves different so we will have to analyse how it would play out each day. Anyway as a team we don't focus on the pitch, we are focused on putting up a good performance.
"Hopefully the wicket will turn. We all know in India that wickets are helpful for the spinners. That is our strength here and it is important to play to our strengths. As of now not sure how the wicket will behave," said the batsman.
Rahane, however, also pointed to New Zealand's strong pace battery despite them losing spearhead Tim Southee to an injury yesterday.
"After seeing videos, we will get a better idea (on how to prepare against the angling balls). As a batting unit, we think of batting over by over and session by session. In Test cricket, every session is important. Not only them (fast bowlers), it is important to give respect to all their bowlers. New Zealand are a good solid team and also have an experienced batting line-up," Rahane said.
India has been slammed for “doctoring” pitches to suit its spinners with the matches ending in 3 days in the last series against South Africa. However, Rahane brushed it aside and said, "It is important to start from the scratch. Yes we know we are playing 13 Tests. This Test will be very crucial. It will set the tone for the rest of the home season. We all are ready for that.
We never have it in our mind that the match should end in three or four days. The mindset is always to win. The duration doesn't matter. The attitude does.
It is also a big occasion – this Test will be India's 500th Test, and an excited Rahane said, "As a player, the focus will be on the match. If we win, it will be the biggest celebration. It will be a historic moment. All of us feel lucky to be part of it.”