India’s vice captain Ajinkya Rahane admitted that losing Ishant Sharma was a significant blow to the side, but asserted that the pacers they have at their disposal are more than capable of bowling the side to victories. Rahane also revealed that a final call on team selection will be made tomorrow.
Weeks prior to flying out to Australia, BCCI announced that Virat Kohli will miss three Tests due to paternity leave, but a bigger blow came in the form of the loss of Ishant Sharma. India’s most reliable seamer across conditions over the last two years, Ishant sustained a rib injury in the IPL, but despite making good progress, he was not able to recover on time for the Tests. The news came as a huge blow as Ishant was one of the wreckers in chief in the 2018 series, picking 11 wickets at an average just under 24, bowling tireless spells to torment the batsmen.
In the absence of Ishant, India have put their faith in the trio of Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj, and Navdeep Saini to step up, but while few have expressed their skepticism over their potency, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane has his confidence on his men.
“We do have a really strong attack. Yes, we will definitely miss Ishant, with him being the senior fast bowler, but guys who are here - Umesh, Saini, Siraj, alongside Shami and Bumrah - I think they all are really good and know how to bowl in these conditions,” Rahane said in a virtual press conference on Tuesday.
“It’s about bowling in partnerships. As we all know, we did really well last time in 2018. This is a new series starting with the pink ball, it’s all about getting that momentum. But I do believe that we have the attack to get 20 wickets. But for us it’s important to start well and stay in the present. It’s important to first just focus on the pink-ball Test, and then move on to the last three Tests.”
Who will partner Shami and Bumrah is undecided, but the selectors have a few other quandaries, including picking the second opener and the wicket-keeper. When asked about the team combination, though, Rahane refused to spill the beans and revealed that the management will take a final call on the combination on Wednesday.
“Everyone is equally good. We still have not decided our combination. We’ll sit tomorrow and discuss our combination. Everyone is equally talented - whoever plays can win the match for us. It’s about trusting our players.”
Coming in at No.5, Rahane, who is on his third trip to Australia, will have a crucial role to play, being one of the more senior batsmen in the side. Particularly in Tests in SENA countries, the 32-year-old has made a name for himself through counter-punching, and ahead of the first Test in Adelaide on Thursday, the Indian vice-skipper restated the importance of showing intent. Rahane stated that a batsman can show intent even through blocks and leaves, and revealed that coming out with a positive mindset helps him at the crease.
“When you bat at 5 or 6, you have to read the situation and play accordingly. For me it’s all about playing with intent, playing according to the situation and according to the team demands. I visualize and play accordingly. Intent does not mean going out there and playing shots; I think intent comes with defence and leaving the ball. The positive mindset I feel is really important. I don’t decide to just go out there and play my shots, but having that intent helps me a lot.”
The 32-year-old from Mumbai led India in both the warm-up games against Australia A, and will also lead the side in the last three Tests post the departure of Virat Kohli. However, the Indian vice captain insisted that he is not currently thinking about leading the side, and is only focusing on giving his best for the side in the first Test, where he’ll be the deputy to Kohli.
“I believe in staying in the moment; staying in the present. Right now Virat is our captain. We think about this Test match and after that when he leaves, then we’ll discuss what’s our plans. For me, right now it’s giving my best in the first Test and helping Virat out,” Rahane said when asked about captaincy.
The first Test in Adelaide will be a pink-ball affair, the second ever Day-Night Test for India in their history.