Focus is on T20s here, not IPL - Rahane
Given the potentially seismic changes currently underway in the IPL, Ajinkya Rahane might be forgiven for being slightly distracted at the moment, but the stand-in Indian captain insisted his focus was entirely on the upcoming Twenty20 internationals against Zimbabwe.
"My only focus is on these two T20s, I'm not thinking about the IPL," he said. "If you represent your country, your only aim is to give your best for your country and win matches for them. We haven't discussed anything [about the IPL]. We were completely focused on the third ODI that day, and with the T20s we'll just focus on the game. We want to give our best against Zimbabwe and win both games."
India's next major Twenty20 engagement will come at the World Twenty20 in India next March, so every match they play until then is also part of their build-up. But, as Rahane pointed out, there's still plenty of time to get their combinations right. "The World T20 is in the back of our mind, but we have to perform our best here. We've still got time for the World T20."
The Indian camp will have plenty of confidence going into the T20s against Zimbabwe, not least because of the squad's plentiful experience in the format due to the IPL. Rahane suggested that they would still be wary of the threat that Zimbabwe pose, particularly as one or two good performances from individual Zimbabweans could spark an upset.
"Yes we have experience playing IPL, guys are pretty much experienced in T20s, but in international cricket you have to perform on that particular day, even if it's T20 you have to be at 100% on the field all the time," he said. "Your commitment has to be up to the mark, attitude has to be very good, so yes we've got that experience with us but against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe we have to give our best on the field, as we did in the ODI cricket. We gave our best, our attitude was fantastic, and again in T20 our main point will be to play as a unit.
"Every format has a different challenge so we have to start from scratch again in the T20s because we all know that one or two good overs for both the teams can change the momentum for any team. We have to be on our toes the whole time and play good cricket for all the 40 overs and I'm sure the boys are up for this."
With India sending a second-string side to Zimbabwe, this series had been billed as something of an audition for full national honours, but Rahane said that India would look to win games first, and only then worry about making sure players are given a chance to showcase their talent.
"As a captain, your only thought is to win the series first. Then obviously giving opportunities," he said. "But when you represent your country, your aim is to win all the games. It's important to have trust in your team-mates, and I have trust in all of my players. We were looking to win all the three games, but in the third ODI we wanted to give an opportunity to Manish [Pandey]. [Ambati] Rayudu got injured, so we gave that opportunity to Manish. Dhawal [Kulkarni] had bowled pretty well, and we wanted to give him a rest and play Mohit [Sharma], so we did that pretty well. As a captain I felt I handled all those situations pretty well."
India were put in to bat in all three ODIs, and had to overcome the challenge of the moving ball in the first hour or so. There were still a couple of wobbles, with India losing early wickets in two of the games, but with the Twenty20s starting in the afternoon Rahane felt that batting conditions would be a little easier.
"The ODI games started at 9 o'clock and here they're afternoon games so I feel the wicket will be slightly better, but still on the slow side. We've played quite a lot of T20 back home, IPL and domestic cricket, so I'm sure the boys will handle the situation pretty well and are looking forward to the two T20s against Zimbabwe."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town