‘It is exciting times for us with the 13 Tests scheduled at home’
Batsman Ajinkya Rahane is expecting the Kanpur wicket to assist the Indian spinners and says the team's performance in the first Test will set the tone for a long home season, comprising 13 five-day games.
"It is exciting times for us with the 13 Tests scheduled at home. The West Indies tour went well for us. Some players also featured in the Duleep Trophy before the New Zealand series. We feel we are in pretty good space at the moment," Rahane said ahead of India's first match of the three-Test series against New Zealand, beginning on Friday.
"We know our conditions here. Having said that, it is important that we respect the opponents in all the 13 Tests."
India will begin the home season with a three-Test series against New Zealand, followed by England, Australia and Bangladesh.
The pitch has been the talking point again before the start of a home series. New Zealand were not offered a turning track in their warm-up match in Delhi but the wicket in India's 500th Test at Green Park is expected to be a turner.
However, Rahane insisted that the team is focussed only on performing, irrespective of the conditions. India's outdoor practice session, on Sunday, was washed out due to heavy rain.
"The weather is not in our control but we have generally seen slow and low wickets here, like it was in the ODI against South Africa last year. Every day (of the game) the pitch behaves different so we will have to analyse how it would play out each day. Anyway as a team we don't focus on the pitch, we are focussed on putting up a good performance.
"Hopefully the wicket will turn. We all know in India that wickets are helpful for the spinners. That is our strength here and it is important to play to our strengths. As of now not sure how the wicket will behave," said the batsman.
Is the team reading too much into New Zealand's performance in the practice match, where Mumbai scored 400 runs off their bowling attack on a single day with their highly touted spinners proving expensive?
"What happens in a practice match is that you are bound to try a few different things. The mindset is different in a warm-up and in a Test match, it is different. They have good bowlers, all three (spinners) are playing together. We respect them. We don't take anyone lightly. Our focus will be on not allowing them to settle into a rhythm," insisted Rahane.
On facing New Zealand's left-arm pacers Trent Boult and Neil Wagner in the series, Rahane said the team is aware of the challenge they could pose for the hosts.
"After seeing videos, we will get a better idea (on how to prepare against the angling balls). As a batting unit, we think of batting over by over and session by session. In Test cricket, every session is important. Not only them (fast bowlers), it is important to give respect to all their bowlers. New Zealand are a good solid team and also have an experienced batting line-up," Rahane emphasised.
In the last home series against South Africa, two out of the four games did not last beyond three days with the pitch turning square and one match was a washout. Only the Delhi Test went into the fifth day.
Rahane, however, said the team doesn't think about the duration of the game going into any Test.
"It is important to start from the scratch. Yes we know we are playing 13 Tests. This Test will be very crucial. It will set the tone for the rest of the home season. We all are ready for that.
"We never have it in our mind that the match should end in three or four days. The mindset is always to win. The duration doesn't matter. The attitude does," he said.
He added by saying that he feels lucky to be a part of India's 500th Test.
"As a player, the focus will be on the match. If we win, it will be the biggest celebration. It will be a historic moment. All of us feel lucky to be part of it," Rahane added.