In hostile territory Down Under, pace will be key for India

  • Sai Prasad Mohapatra, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 23, 2014 01:19 IST

India left for their most challenging assignment in recent times with the intention to match pace with pace against the intimidating Australians.

Given the conditions Down Under, it is teams with a strong pace attack who have in the past held their own against the hosts. Stand-in skipper Virat Kohli was confident that India would also have a battery of bowlers with pace hovering around the 140 kmph mark. And thus it won't be prudent to write off this unit even though it's young and inexperienced.

"It's an advantage when you have four bowlers who can bowl above 140 kmph. You expect them (Australia) to back their strength and so if you have that firepower, then you can compete. We have two bowlers up front - one who can swing the ball and one who is real fast. Then you have two more coming in who can also bowl above 140. So the batsman is never sure about picking bowlers to go after. It's going to be a massive factor in Australia," Virat said at the pre-departure media conference on Friday.

'Think of winning'

"You have to think of winning every single minute, before the tour and as long as you are once there. That's how you can compete with a team like Australia and actually think of beating them at home. India have done that in the past (in Australia) and I see no reason why it can't happen again. All the guys are aggressive and hungry to perform," Kohli added.

One of the keys will be to get the right combination, said Kohli. "We need to figure the best combination. Test cricket is about sticking to a particular combination and giving those players confidence. It is very important not to let them feel that there are replacements waiting.

"The players that are there in the team right now are there because the selectors and management believe that they are the best people for that role. We need to back them 100% right now," Kohli said.

Apart from waging a tough battle against the Australians, a huge challenge will also be about the rigour of a long and arduous tour - nearly four months including the World Cup - which can result in mid-series fatigue. It would be about retaining peak performance throughout, and arrest declining motivation.

Leading a team with an average age of 26 and, except Ishant Sharma, most have played less than 25 Tests, team director Ravi Shastri predicted a turnaround, also his first real test.

"When you are on a long tour, you need to be able to switch off. Like Virat mentioned earlier, focus on what you have to do but when you are not playing, switch off. You have got to have ways of relaxing, you have got to have hobbies. It can be a round of golf. And then Australia is a great county, there are enough places to go to.

Keeping mind fresh

"Get your mind off the cricket, so that you are fresh and hungry by the time the World Cup starts. That's the key. It's not in what form you are. It's the mental state: how fresh and hungry you are when you get out there. Your mental state has to be extremely fresh," said Shastri.

"What has happened in the past, leave it in the past. The idea would be to make the guys focus inwards, back their ability. That is the key when you play in overseas conditions. You back yourselves and you are prepared to put in the hard yards. When the going gets tough, then you will come out and see that you are suddenly playing above your potential. That's the endeavor. It's a young side. Once they smell blood, taste success, it could be a different result altogether," said Shastri.

A fiery cricketer, Kohli has shown a tendency to cross the line and get involved in avoidable controversies. Last time, he courted controversy and had the crowd going after him in Australia. The stand-in India skipper said it will be about mixing caution with aggression.

"First priority is to be positive and aggressive and then we dictate terms when are in a position where we can sort of plan ahead, so the intent has to be positive and aggressive. First thought should be about being in a positive mindset," Kohli said.

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