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Biggest opportunity for us, but not taking Australia lightly: Ishant

Bracing up for the "biggest opportunity" to win a maiden Test series Down Under, India's Ishant Sharma Tuesday also cautioned that Australia is good enough to cause problems, regardless of the turmoil in its cricket.

The Border-Gavaskar Trophy begins in Adelaide on December 6, with the Indian team bedding in for preparations at the Sydney Cricket Ground and taking on Cricket Australia XI in a four-day tour game from Wednesday.

"We don't really think about all these things. It depends on a given day. In cricket whoever is playing for the country is good enough. Till the time we get the results, we don't take anything lightly.

"We are pretty motivated. The aim right now is to win the series and that is what everyone is focussing on. We don't even think of personal performances, just one aim, to win a series in Australia," said Sharma.

India were whitewashed 4-0 when they were here the last time, though current captain Virat Kohli made his presence felt with plenty of runs.

"The tour game is serious because it will set the tone for us. You get to know the conditions because you are playing here after a long time. So you can get into the groove and get used to the conditions," he added.

A lot of onus will be on the Indian pace attack to deliver the goods once again after their terrific performances in South Africa and England earlier in the year. 

Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri have praised them time and again as the 'best pace attack' in Indian Test history.

Sharma though said this tag doesn't heap more pressure, instead provides an opportunity for the pacers to perform even better. Coming on his fourth tour here, he added that he is eager to win the Test series this time, while not thinking about individual performances.

"Pressure is there but I think it is a great opportunity as well. We have a healthy competition in the pace attack. If you are not doing well, you can be left sitting out and watching the game.

"I think it's a great opportunity to do well in any conditions. We did well on the last two tours of South Africa and England. We are not even thinking like we have a pressure situation. Instead, we always think that we have an opportunity to do well," said Sharma.

The last time India and Australia engaged in a Test series back in India (2016-17), Sharma had a couple famous run-ins with then-skipper Steve Smith, who will be missing the series owing to a year-long ban after the ball tampering saga.

"I have played 11 years now so I don't need to think about what I need to do well. I'm not that kind of person who thinks about what happened in the past. I'm looking forward and I'm going to do well on this tour as well," Sharma added.

While the hosts will definitely miss Smith and David Warner, the senior Indian bowler didn't pick any names to target in the current Australian batting line-up.

"It is very difficult to say right now (about facial expressions). I don't know what's going to happen. When the series starts, we will get to know what faces to make. There is no one key batsman to look out for but our aim is to get everyone all out." 

When asked about Kohli's passionate charisma rubbing off onto the others, Sharma replied, "Everyone is passionate because we are always motivated to win a series, not just in Australia but when we played in South Africa and England too, we were pretty motivated to win the series.

"That's the biggest opportunity for us right now. We always have a good balance of players in our side, who can do great things for us, so it's very promising." 

On their previous overseas tours to South Africa and England, India have baulked at the task of playing tour games against weakened opposition. Cricket Australia XI isn't a first-team by any stretch of the imagination, but Sharma pointed out that the visitors are focussing more on what needs to be done rather than the quality of opposition.

"I never think too much about all these things because if you go with this kind of feeling then you relax a bit," Sharma said about the tour-game opponents.

"It's always better to be on your toes and be ready for your opportunity when you hit the ground. Our bowling combination depends on wickets and conditions. So it is very early to talk about combinations.

"Right now we are talking about how to make most of the practice game and what combination we will play in the practice game," he signed off.

 

By Chetan Narula - PTI

 
 
           
 
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