India's captain Virat Kohli
File photo: India's captain Virat Kohli (left) and the team celebrate the wicket of Australia's Harry Nielsen on the fourth day of the tour match against Cricket Australia XI at the SCG in Sydney on December 1, 2018. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: India may be looking to end a 70-year-old jinx of not winning a Test series Down Under, but they will be looking to adhere to Team India coach Ravi Shastri’s philosophy of enjoying the game in the first place.

Speaking to Gulf News from Adelaide after an intense training session that will kickstart his team’s mission of wining the four-Test series in Australia, starting with the first Test from Thursday, he said: “Pressure to win a series will always be there on a tour. What will be of importance is that my boys must enjoy the matches and enjoy the tour.”

Team India coach Ravi Shastri Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Shastri believes that learning from the mistakes, especially from earlier overseas series and ensuring that those drawbacks are not repeated, is vital. “We have learnt many things from the tours of South Africa and England. If we can implement all that we learnt and apply it correctly during this series, then we will definitely have a good tour,” added Shastri, who produced many memorable performances in Australia and went on to win the Champions of Champions honour in the World Championship of Cricket in 1985.

Shastri’s philosophy is based on the premise that unless players are willing to enjoy the moment, they won’t be able to give their best. “Fearless cricket is trusting your abilities and doing whatever you do with intent. It is when you are scared of failure that you tighten up. Then you don’t play your shots and also give the opposition more respect than they deserve.”

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The need to win the series against Australia has reached its peak after the series defeat to England. A series defeat, especially if it is a 4-0 whitewash of India, could see Australia dethrone India from the top of the ICC Test ranking. All forms of analysis are being done by Australian team management about Team India players to stop the batsmen. It is understood that analysts have worked hard and found that Indian skipper Virat Kohli falls more often to deliveries that deviate off the seam rather than through swing. However, it should be recalled that he is the only visiting captain to hit three centuries in a Test series in Australia during 2014-15. Though Australia is hoping to unsettle the Indian batsmen through bounce, Shastri has been working hard to ensure that they counter that threat without difficulty.

Many believe that this is India’s best chance to win the Test series as Australia are without their skipper Steve Smith and David Warner, though as of now, history favours Australians. They have won 20 and lost just two Tests at home since 2013. They haven’t also lost a Test match in Adelaide since 2010 when they lost to England by an innings and 71 runs. The pressure, hence, is not on India alone but on Australians too to maintain their reputation.

The Indian bowling attack will have to deliver. The experienced Ishant Sharma will have to lead from the front while the accurate Mohammad Shami too needs to chip in. This is also an opportunity for Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to rise to the challenge. Backing them will be the spin of Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja.

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The Australian attack is among the best in the world led by Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and spinner Nathan Lyon. Though Hazlewood and Cummins missed the UAE series against Pakistan, they will be fresh for the kill.

In short, both the teams are well-balanced in all departments for an intense fight. While Australians have to brush aside the fact that they are weaker than ever before, Indians have to overcome the stigma of struggling abroad. It is here that Shastri’s philosophy of enjoying the contests and delivering their skills may prove to be handy.

India versus Australia Looking back in figures
Image Credit: Gulf News