Star Indian batsman Virat Kohli has described England as 'one of the toughest venues for sub-continental teams' but said they are focussed on putting up a strong performance in the five-Test series to start the transition of the young Indian team to a good quality side. (Being part of Indian Team more important that being skipper: MS Dhoni)
The opening Test begins on Wednesday in Nottingham, as both teams started their preparations at Trent Bridge. (Stuart Broad ready for gruelling India tour)
"This tour is right up there with South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. I would say these are the four places where sub-continental players do want to perform well. I too have that in my mind," said Kohli.Â (England tour an opportunity to rise in ICC Test rankings)
"It is a pretty special place to play cricket and I'll be playing a Test at Lord's for the first time. So all-in-all, it is a very exciting tour for me personally because I have never played Test cricket here before and I am really looking forward to it. I have some goals I want to achieve, and I have been thinking about them. I am pretty excited about playing here."Â (Kohli, Pujara key to India's success in England)
India have not done too well against England in their recent Test encounters. They lost the 2012-13 home series by a 2-1 margin and prior to that suffered a humiliating 4-0 whitewash in the summer of 2011. It might appear to be a big burden on the outside but Kohli negated that this factor is having any effects on this new-look Indian team. (Indian batsmen can breathe easy for 1st Test)
"We haven't spoken about what we did wrong in that series (2011). We've spoken about the positives we could take out of it. That was a different time. Three years down the line, we have a totally new side. Most of us haven't played Test cricket here," he said.
"It'll be exciting for us to experience the conditions and everyone is eager to go out there and see what it's like. You get full crowds, everyone's involved in the game and everyone knows the game.
"It's not about washing that (2011) series off, erasing those memories. That will stay in the history books, whether we like it or not. All we can focus on is the new series we have here, and put in a strong performance which would be a starting point for this young team to go ahead and be a good quality Test side. A guy who played brilliantly in that series is mentoring us right now, speaking about his experiences -Rahul Dravid. That's a big plus," Kohli added.
The Indian team management had requested former Indian captain Dravid to join the squad after the first practice game at Leicester and help them prepare ahead of the first Test.
"He is not helping us on the technical side of things because everyone plays the game in a different way. But he is helping us understand the conditions here better, how much the ball will swing, for how long it will swing, how the conditions will affect the game, and so on," said Kohli.
"Dravid has spoken about the experiences he's had in England, scoring those hundreds and what he felt getting those runs in tough conditions. That's all you need as a batsman, getting into a player's head who has done it all here and getting into that zone yourself. It helps big time.
"He's tried to get us as mentally strong as he can and has been open to talk at any point of time about anything in anyone's batting or even bowling. He has a fair idea of where the bowlers have bowled to him. He's helped everyone and it's been great to have had him with the team and share his experiences with us," he added.
While India have been preparing to get ahead of the conditions, the hosts have been jostling with their own troubles, with senior English bowlers reporting fatigue ahead of a gruelling summer schedule
England are going through a transition phase too and it has not been easy with skipper Alastair Cook struggling for runs. His poor form has impacted his captaincy skills as England lost a home series to Sri Lanka recently.
"Cook was batting brilliantly when he came to India and he made full use of that. Obviously, right now, things have been pretty difficult for him. Everyone goes through that phase where they don't score runs, but because he has the captaincy as well that might be troubling him a little more," Kohli said.
"We know he's a quality player and he can come back into form at any time. We would like to keep him under pressure and get him out early, because the English batting has revolved around him for the last few years. He's going to be a big player in this series and we'd like to get him early to get the momentum when we're bowling," said the India vice-captain.
The 25-year-old exuded confidence of his team and said it would be a competitive series.
"You can say they have just lost to Sri Lanka and they might be a bit low on confidence. One way of coming out of that situation is to come out and express yourself without thinking about the results. They can come out all guns blazing, or they might still be thinking about that series.
"We don't want to think what England are thinking right now because even if they are at their best and they are playing really good cricket, this will be a competitive series. You never know until the first ball of the first Test is bowled," Kohli signed off.