On arriving to Australia for the four-Test series, India’s stand-in captain, Virat Kohli, exhibited confidence in his team’s ability to cope against the Australian fast bowlers on the wickets with pace and bounce. (Also Read: AUSTRALIA SQUAD FOR TEST SERIES AGAINST INDIA 2014-15)
The bowler expected to present most problems to the Indian batsman is Mitchell Johnson, who was recently named the ICC Cricketer of the Year, for second time running. This will be the first time most Indian batsmen will face Johnson in his home conditions, after he missed India’s 2011-12 tour due to injury. (Also Read: Australia vs India Test Series - Schedule & Fixtures)
"He's been bowling really well - everyone knows that,” Virat said. “Credit to him for doing all that. We are equipped enough to tackle him on these pacy and bouncy wickets. I don't see any good reason why we can't come up and put up a good fight. (Also Read: KL Rahul Ready for Australia Test series)
"It's all about mentally being there. If you can visualise being in that battle and being on top, I think you're going to be able to go out there and execute it. I think the guys in our team have the ability to do it ... it's all about being mentally present."
Before the first Test, starting on December 4, Team India are to play a couple of two-day warm-up matches in Adelaide. When asked if a total of four days of match practice is enough preparation, Virat reiterated that in Australia, getting used to the conditions is secondary to being in the right mindset.
"It should be enough. We don't have any choice, I guess," Virat said. "We've got to do whatever we can with those four days of practice games, and the sessions in between.
"I think coming to Australia and playing, it's more about the mindset rather than getting used to the conditions, because pace and bounce is something which you can get used to. But unless you're mentally there, there's no point of any sort of practice."
This is Virat’s second Test tour to Australia and although the team struggled in the 2011-12 edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Virat has fond memories of the series. With 300 runs, including a century and a half-century, he was India’s best batsman and third highest run-getter from either side. The skipper said that confidence will bode him well this time around.
"There's more pace and bounce, so the shot selection becomes very important. That's what I saw last time - you need a lot more patience compared to back home. You've got to pick the right balls to hit in the right areas and figure out with the big fields what your spots and strengths are - and the areas you should avoid early on with the new Kookaburra because it does quite a bit, especially on these tracks," he said.
"I think Australia is a great place to bat, once you get in. The morning session goes through [well for bowlers]. The guys need to realise that and play themselves in. Eventually I experienced that last time as well. It's a beautiful place to play cricket as a batsman, it's a lovely place to be when you're 30 or 40 and the ball gets a bit old."
Besides the cricket, Virat said he was also looking forward to the Aussie aggression, on and off the field.
"I had quite a bit of it last time, but I loved it. Once you perform in those conditions, the people love you here and they love a good fight," he said. "We're here to play aggressive cricket, play the brand of cricket that Australia plays. They can expect a lot of fightbacks on the bat and there's going to be more aggression this time around with the whole squad."
About the lead India for the first time in Test cricket, Virat said he was extremely excited for the opportunity.
"I love leading the side, I love being captain, I love putting my first foot forward and putting in my [views] throughout the game. I don't see any issues on why I can't be up to the challenge. As long as the team backs me and puts in the performances we want, I think I'm going to look good at the end of the day,” he said.