With all the talk around the pitches and South Africa's capitulation in the Test series last season, the failure of India's frontline batsmen against spin didn't quite come under the scanner. Those were some of the toughest pitches to bat on, but if India continue with their strategy of playing on similar tracks, they can't always rely on Ravindra Jadeja and the tail to rescue them. Ajinkya Rahane, the only centurion in that home series, spoke of the need to bat better against the New Zealand spinners, who are a more formidable test than Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir and Dane Piedt.
"We don't take anyone lightly," Rahane said of the New Zealand spinners, Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Mark Craig. "While we respect them, our plan is to not let them settle down and dominate them."
India began their training in Kanpur on Sunday before the first Test starting Thursday. After a surprise rain shower cut short their first training session, the Test squad had extended practice a couple of hours on either side of Rahane's press conference.
New Zealand's practice hasn't been ideal, partly because of the packed international calendar. Playing in the pre-season, New Zealand got just one three-day game to get some match time before embarking on what could become the toughest test in world cricket today. Even their practice match was played on a flat track in Delhi, far from what they will get in the Tests.
On the second day of that match, Mumbai, the Ranji Trophy champions who were missing two of their best batsmen, raked up 400 runs. However, just like Siddhesh Lad, the Mumbai batsman who scored an effortless century against the New Zealanders, Rahane stayed away from trying to score any psychological points.
When told of the New Zealand spinners' performance in the warm-up, Rahane was quick to point out how Test matches have a different intensity altogether. "Sometimes in practice matches, you are trying things," Rahane said. "It is a different mindset. Tests mindset is entirely different. Their spinners are good, they have played with each other, and we will respect them."
One of the reasons to respect the spinners will be that Rahane expects more turning tracks. "Hopefully it [the Green Park pitch] will turn," he said. "We all know wickets in India are helpful for spinners, and they will turn. That is our strength. It is important to play to our strengths. But as of now I am not sure how the wicket is going to be."
Rahane also said it didn't matter how long it took to win as long as the wins kept arriving. "We never go in thinking we have to win in three or four days," he said. "We just want to win matches, doesn't matter if it is on the third day or the final session of the final day. That attitude matters."
India last played a Test in Kanpur against Sri Lanka in 2009, where spinners accounted for 20 of the 30 wickets to fall, with the hosts winning in little under four days. Rahane will be hoping for a similar result no matter how much time it takes.
"We know we are playing 13 Test matches here [in India]," Rahane said. "The first Test will be crucial. This game will set the tone for the season. Yes we are playing ODIs as well but focussing on Tests first. The first Test of every series is crucial. You get that momentum from that. And I feel we all are ready for that."