Benoni: The Indian batting line-up has been exposed to the hilt in the ODI series against South Africa, but top-order batsmen Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara on Thursday said they would prefer to go into the Test series beginning December 18 with an uncluttered mind and stick to the basics.
"I think you got to keep it simple because already there is a lot of talk going around. You got to go out there and be free in your mind and just see the ball and play, that's the basic plan, as simple as that," said Vijay, who was sent early to acclimatise with the South African conditions, along with Pujara, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha and Wriddhiman Saha.
"We came early and I have watched a couple games on television, especially the first one at Wanderers. So I know what to expect," said Vijay, talking about India's 0-2 ODI series drubbing, ahead of the team's two-day practice game against a South African Invitational XI beginning here on Friday.
Asked who they thought was the quickest bowler they had faced in their career so far, Vijay and Pujara chose a name other than Steyn. While Vijay picked Australia's Mitchell Johnson, who is scaring English batsmen in the ongoing Ashes series, Pujara could not decide between another Australian James Pattinson or South Africa's Morne Morkel.
"When you are playing at international level, you expect fast bowling and so it's not about who is the fastest. But yes conditions are favourable for bowlers and so it is a little challenging for us. That is the important part as a youngster, because when you want to grow as a cricketer you want to face challenges and learn out of it. It will be a challenging tour for us but we are well prepared for it," said Pujara.
"I think the important thing here is that you need to adjust to the bounce and the lateral movement. Since I have played a couple of matches here it will help me adjust better and I think the preparation time that we had here is also enough and should help us to perform better," he added.
This series is not the first Test trip to South Africa for either Cheteshwar Pujara or Murali Vijay. They had toured South Africa in 2010-11, but it was not a memory that would have lingered long to both of them. The duo could not do much back then, totalling 59 runs in five innings between them. Since then, however, they have come a long way.Pujara has become the mainstay of Indian batting in Test in the past year, slipping seamlessly into the spot vacated by Rahul Dravid. With Sachin Tendulkar no longer in the scene as well, it can be expected that both Pujara and Virat Kohli will shoulder the Indian batting responsibility in future.
"The last one and a half years has been really good for me. I think I have become a matured player and playing against teams like Australia and England has helped me a lot because they have very good fast bowling. I think the kind of runs you score in one-one and a half years when you are in good form, you've got a lot of confidence.
"Even in the domestic matches I have scored runs. I have very good confidence which helps a cricketer prepare himself mentally rather than what he does on the field. When you are mentally prepared there are some adjustments which needs to be done on the field, then you are in the best frame of mind, you have the best chance of preparing yourself on the field," said Pujara.
At the same time, the young batsman though was quick to deflect attention.
"When you are playing abroad -- not just abroad, anywhere -- it has to be the whole batting unit that takes the responsibility. There are a few players. Sometimes I am in form, sometimes someone else is in form. It is up to the player in form to take the team through. It's not like it is just me or Virat. It's the batting unit that we have that makes us win. The same applies here," he said.
Vijay, on the other hand, has not been in particularly good form since the Test series against Australia ended in March. Even in the build-up to this tour, he was not among big runs. Against the West Indies, his best was 42 while in the three Ranji matches he played for Tamil Nadu (before flying out), he scored only one fifty.
"For me, it's a feel good factor inside. It's not about how many runs I score, it's more about how I bat. If am in good touch and hitting the ball well, that matters to me more. In that respect, I am satisfied at where I am looking forward to whatever I can do in South Africa," he said.
Asked if this was a make or break tour for him, Vijay quickly went on the defensive.
"Not really," he said.
"This is another opportunity for me and that's how I go about it in my life. I am concentrating on things I can do here, and take things out of it. I want to focus the process, and not on what is going to happen at the end of the series. This is going to be a major part of my career, and I am going to concentrate on it. Hopefully I will pull it off," said Vijay.