'Focused on our preparations'

Cricket : Coach Kumble says team not attaching extra importance to Aussie series

'Focused on our preparations'

India are on a roll, having won a record six series in a row stretching from their tour of Sri Lanka in mid-2015 to the one-off Test against Bangladesh earlier this month. Their latest opponents Australia, too, are coming on the back of a dominant series win over Pakistan at home. However, their record in the sub-continent in the past several years has been abysmal.

In their three visits to India, the UAE (against Pakistan) and Sri Lanka, they have been beaten 4-0, 2-0 and 3-0 – all whitewashes – on tracks where their batsmen have shown neither the right technique nor the requisite temperament to counter the spinners. Australia’s own spinners have then struggled to find the right line, length and turn to trouble the sub-continental batsmen, compounding their problems.

Thus, it’s natural to assume that Australia’s four-Test series, commencing here from Thursday, could go the same way. But then, this Australian side appears a different kettle of fish.

“Overall, they’re a good side,” admitted India’s Head Coach Anil Kumble. “They have some good bowlers and batters. The approach that they tend to take is aggressive, so that’s something that we’re aware of. We will put together strategies in place that can counter that.”

Australia themselves have left nothing to chance in their preparation for the tour that has the potential to make or mar some of their players’ careers. “There is going to be different challenge lying ahead for us on this tour,” said Nathan Lyon, Australia’s lead spinner. “We have a really good squad together. Training really well, (we) scuffed up the wicket to try and replicate what we will get. It’s going to turn, it’s going to reverse and the big quicks are going to play a role. It’s a good challenge for the whole team,” noted the offie.

While the odds overwhelmingly tilt towards hosts, there is also a general consensus that the Steve Smith-led side has the wherewithal to challenge India’s might. England, who were hammered 4-0 not too long ago, perhaps had a better batting line-up but the Australian batsmen can be mentally stronger. By nature they are aggressive and they don’t get scarred that easily. 

Former India captain Ravi Shastri echoed similar sentiments in a recent interview with DH. “I see Australia coming here on a good run in the last two months,” he had noted. “A lot of their top-order batsmen have played in India in the IPL, I see them being a little more aggressive (than Englishmen) when it comes to batting. A little more positive. So it will be interesting.”

Kumble felt India need not attach too much importance just because it’s Australia and lose focus on what they ought to do. The former India captain insisted that India would rather focus on their game and strategies. 

“We all know the Australian team, they’re really professional and we’ll like to treat them as any other team. I don’t think we need to attach any other significance to the series.... Rather we look at ourselves and ticking all those boxes that we’ve been doing over the last 6-8 months.

“Yes, planning is (there) in terms of who the opposition is, putting together some strategies of how you need to bowl and how you need to play. But generally the focus is on our team. That’s what we try and identify and see how best we can prepare in terms of what we need to do rather than what the opposition is. And that’s been the focus right throughout the home series. Focus is mainly on how we want to prepare for the series.”

Also, unlike the series against England which was almost incident-free, the clash against Australia is unlikely to be fought in a “friendly” atmosphere. There are going to be banters and in worse cases sledging. A team which can keep itself calm in the face of provocation is going to hold an edge.

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