Johannesburg, Dec 24 (IANS) India opener and vice-captain KL Rahul has stated that the team is better prepared than their last tour of South Africa in 2018. He added that coming in early has helped in making a good preparation. India will begin their tour of South Africa with the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion from Sunday.
"We understand that in any foreign series, getting the team off to a good start is the most important thing as a batsman. Last time I came here was three-four years ago and it was my first tour to South Africa. So, I didn't really know what to expect and how to handle these conditions. But this time around, having played two Test matches here before and having watched lots of videos on how the conditions are here, we are slightly better prepared than the last time.
"We have had a great preparation going into the Test matches and really excited about 26th. Hopefully, me and Mayank will get the team off to a good start and give the team a good platform to try and win the game," said Rahul in the virtual press conference.
This is the second time Rahul has come to South Africa after 2018 and the right-handed batter believes that the pitches in the country will pose a challenge. "It's the pace and bounce in the pitches here which are very different to any other country. That's why I think it was important that we came here a bit early and try to get adjusted to the pitches."
"We have had a great week of preparation and had a lot of sessions in the middle with match stimulations for batters and bowlers. We practised here with a lot of intensity and tried to get used to the conditions as best we can. We had a great week of preparation. Hopefully, we will have a great series here in South Africa this time."
Talking about changes in shot selection for South Africa as compared to other overseas conditions, Rahul remarked, "I haven't played a lot of games in South Africa but my experience is that the pitches could be challenging because of the tennis-ball bounce. We have played in Australia, where the pitches are fast and bouncy. But here, it (the pitch) can be bit spongy for first couple of days and then starts to quicken up.
"When I played here last time, each day the wicket was a bit difficult and you had to stand in and adjust according to that. So, that becomes a huge challenge for both batters and bowlers. We are looking forward to the series as South Africa is an exciting place to play cricket and comes with a lot of challenges."
Asked about his personal preparation ahead of the series, Rahul said, "I have just been focusing on playing close to the body. It remains the same wherever you play, in playing close to the body and leave a lot of balls outside the off-stump and try to see off the new ball, which is the most important thing. That is what the team expects you to do as well."
"Historically, we have seen in South Africa, the new ball plays a big part. My focus has been really to play tight, something which I did in England. You have to be a lot more focused and disciplined in your mindset apart from being patient and waiting to score your runs and not give away wickets in the first 30-35 overs of the new ball."
The 29-year-old insisted India will take confidence from wins in Australia and England while taking the field against South Africa.
"It's a huge series for us as a team. We always take away series as a challenge. I know lot has been written and said about team India not being able to win series away from India. We have worked really hard towards this. Winning in Australia and in England has given us good confidence. We haven't won a series here. So, it gives us extra motivation to go out there and give our best performance. Try and learn from the mistakes in the past tour and be better this time and enjoy our cricket and the series."
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