Cricbuzz Staff •
Rahane feels the mental switch from two months of T20 cricket has been vital in preparation for the one-off Test against Afghanistan. © AFP
With Afghanistan’s foray into Test cricket, the Indian team might also be entering history books on Thursday but Ajinkya Rahane is not taking his eye off the prize even if it’s a one-off match against debutants. “The focus will be on how to win,” he repeats twice in his pre-match address, while “ruthless cricket” finds a mention too. However, India’s stand-in skipper Rahane feels the mental switch required after two months of back-to-back T20 cricket is vital to his side’s preparation.
“Over the last three days, the focus has been on tuning our minds, especially because we’re coming in after two months of the IPL. Skill-wise it won’t make a difference, but our attitude [towards training] matters if you have to make a quick switch in terms of our mindset from T20s to Test cricket,” Rahane said on Wednesday (June 13).
While the sense of occasion can be overwhelming for the tourists who attained Test status only a year ago, Rahane said India will not approach this game any differently. “It’s like any other Test match for us. As a Test team, we cannot take anyone for granted, because cricket is a funny game. We just want to go out there and be ruthless – the way we’ve been playing throughout the season, especially in this format. Yes, we are going to focus on our strengths and our 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.
“Our attitude will remain the same on the field. It’s important because every Test counts. We don’t want to take anyone lightly, but we’re lucky to be part of this historic first Test. It will be a great experience – we’re all excited – but our focus will be on how to win.”
It could be a healthy piece of advice for first-timers Afghanistan too who have created quite a stir by claiming to own spinners better than that of their opponents. The exploits of Rashid Khan & Co. in white-ball cricket are well documented, however, the lack of as much match experience in long-form cricket could prove to be their undoing.
Rahane refused to draw comparisons between the two spin-attacks, or delve deeper into whether the Indian spin troika of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav will have a point to prove in the Test, but stated that what will effectively be a decisive factor is who handles the pressure situations better.
“Every member of a team always believes their team is good, that their bowling attack or their batting is better,” Rahane said with a wide smile when reminded of his opposite number, Asghar Stanikzai’s bold statement in the lead up to this Test. “We all know the stats, but [for us it’s important that] we don’t focus on stats. In Test cricket, throughout the five days, every session matters a lot. It is important that you do your best all the time.
“And our spinners – Kuldeep, Ashwin or Jadeja – they are all experienced, they’re all quality spinners. They back each other, they enjoy bowling with each other even in the nets and in the match. Yes, as I mentioned, every member of a team feels their team is much better, but on that given day it’s important what your mindset is and how you handle pressure.”
Rahane also welcomed back Dinesh Karthik, who will be donning the gloves in the absence of injured Wriddhiman Saha, to the Test fold after an eight-year exile. “His experience, his form – the way he was batting in the Asia Cup especially and also in the IPL…. his experience playing those domestic games [will help us]… Coming back after a long time is special, it’s good to have him in the team.”