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India vs England: Ajinkya Rahane puts mindset over skill to triumph in England Tests

India’s main batsmen, especially Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara focused on deliveries outside off-stump while bowling coach Bharath Arun instructed bowlers to pitch it up and let the ball move.

cricket Updated: Jul 30, 2018 19:17 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Birmingham
India vs England,India cricket team,England Cricket team
India's Ajinkya Rahane during a press conference before the first Test against England. (Action Images via Reuters)

Any tour of England is seen as special and challenging because the visiting team will have to work extra hard to adapt to already tough pitch conditions that can keep shifting as a weather changes.

After their top-order batsmen, especially Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane, struggled in the practice game against Essex at Chelmsford in scorching sun, the motto was staying patient as India hit the nets at the Edgbaston Stadium in overcast conditions after two days of rain in Birmingham.

India’s main batsmen, especially Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara focused on deliveries outside off-stump while bowling coach Bharath Arun instructed bowlers to pitch it up and let the ball move outside off-stump.

‘Aur aage daalo’ (pitch it further up) was Arun’s instruction as Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur tested the batsmen with swinging deliveries around the off-stump.

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It is not easy to ditch technique and reflex, but vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, one of the successes of the dismal 2014 tour when India ceded advantage to lose the five-Test series 1-3, said India must stay patient to overcome England, who have been inconsistent but hold the home advantage.

Rahane, who struck a match-winning century at Lord’s besides two fifties four years ago told a media conference on Monday: “First of all, playing in England is challenging. We know what it takes to play good cricket. But if you think about result you will put pressure on yourself.”

For the batsman seen among the best in tough overseas conditions, mindset comes ahead of one’s skill, which could explain Virat Kohli’s failure on the previous tour. “The skill level, both teams are on a par. It is not skill, but the mindset that matters.

“In England, patience is the key. Conditions depend a lot on the weather. If it is sunny, it is good to bat and if cloudy it is good to bowl. It is important you back your game. It is important as a batsman, whoever gets set here, you should make it count.

The change in weather has altered the equation and pace seems to have regained focus in the conversation after it appeared spin would be the key. Rahane said Indian batsmen will have to learn to tone it down even if they are in fine nick.

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“Somehow you have to communicate well to your partner. Even when you are batting on 70-80, you have to hold back when weather changes. Acceptance (respecting conditions) will be the key.”

India for once go into the five-match series with a solid pace attack that can do damage to the host batsmen.

“I feel our pace bowlers are very experienced, Shami and Umesh. In South Africa fast bowlers did really well. We have an attack that can disturb the opponent. But we need to be patient and bowl in the right areas.

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Discipline though will be the key. “You have to accept the conditions and should not look to take wickets from both ends. We should keep it tight from one end and attack from the other.”

Although Kuldeep Yadav is in the frame for selection, Rahane, who was captain when the chinaman bowler made his Test debut against Australia in Dharamsala hinted the seasonsed R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja could get the first chance if India pick two spinners.

“Kuldeep is definitely the X-factor. He bowled really well in the T20s and ODIs. We have to see what the wicket is like, but Ashwin can also bat. We don’t have to forget Ashwin and Jadeja.”

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 19:13 IST