Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
3 minute read
25 Dec 2021
2:32 pm

India ready for ‘huge series’ against Proteas, says Rahul

Ken Borland

“The pace and bounce here is very different to any other country... but we’ve had a great week of preparation with a lot of intensity."

India opener Lokesh Rahul during a training session in Centurion. Picture: Getty Images

Anyone who still buys into the narrative that India are poor away from home has clearly not been keeping up to date because Virat Kohli’s men have won their last four series overseas.

That includes back-to-back triumphs in Australia and victory in England. But South Africa remains the one country where India have not managed to win a series. And the fact that Sri Lanka were the first subcontinent team to achieve that feat – in 2018/19 – does not sit well with the global superpowers.

Opener Lokesh Rahul is developing into one of India’s key batsmen and on Friday he admitted winning a series in South Africa for the first time is “extra motivation” for the team, although he is well aware of the challenges they will face in Centurion, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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“This is a huge series for us, we always take away tours as a challenge,” Rahul said. “A lot was said about India not being able to win overseas, but we worked really hard on it and we won in England and Australia.

“But we have not won a series here and that is extra motivation. We will try to be better this time and learn from our previous mistakes here.

“The pace and bounce here is very different to any other country, which is why it was important to get here earlier and we’ve had a great week of preparation, with a lot of intensity.

“Australia is fast and bouncy, but here the pitches start a bit slow, then quicken up and then slow down again, and you have to adjust. It’s an exciting place to play and the new ball plays a big part,” Rahul said.

Kohli was the only Indian batsman to average more than 35 on their previous tour here in early 2018 and the tourists will be relying on him again, along with his fellow 33-year-olds Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara to contribute much more.

They are hardly antiques, but their form in recent seasons suggests they will be looking over their shoulders at the younger generation.

Rahul himself had a miserable time in South Africa in 2018, scoring just 30 runs in four innings. But he believes he has the game-plan to put that right.

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“I have to play close to the body, the same as an opener wherever you play. I need to try see off the new ball and that means leaving a lot of deliveries. We don’t want to be giving away wickets in the first 25-30 overs.

“I need to play tight, I did it in England as well. You need to be a lot more focused and disciplined here, you have to be patient to get your runs.

“It’s important that we start well with the bat and be prepared to leave the ball multiple times,” Rahul said.