India have been in Australia for nearly two months. If they go the distance in the World Cup, they will have spent another two months and nine days away from home. Players such as Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane have played every game on tour so far. Schedule changes because of Phillip Hughes' death meant they have played three back-to-back Tests. Ishant Sharma has got injured, Rohit Sharma has got injured, Ravindra Jadeja is out of action for the moment, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has only just come out of injury, and MS Dhoni has retired from Tests.
When a team spends two months fighting to stay afloat as India have, and especially when they don't have a win to show for their efforts, it can be draining - mentally more than physically. After India were dismissed for their lowest total against England, and lost heavily in Brisbane, their captain Dhoni spoke of the importance of staying fresh and not getting worn out.
Dhoni was asked about India's failure to cope with the pace and bounce in the Gabba pitch, and he said this: "When we don't do well, there is a lot of criticism. I feel that is part and parcel but not to forget it was the same batting line-up that won us the Champions Trophy, and that was in England that we played. It is important to have confidence, not to forget it's the same players who have put in a lot of effort in the Test series. It doesn't really matter whether you have scored runs or not, the preparation is the same."
"Long Test series take a lot out of you. Four-Test series and then getting into the tri-series also. There is a lot of pressure. When you score runs, you put in a lot of effort. When you don't score runs, you actually put in more effort than the guys who are scoring runs. It does drain you out. After that, you need a bit of time off and then you can get into the groove again, express [yourself] a bit more on the field, have a bit of time off and that can happen in this tri-series now that between this game and then next one that we play, we have four-five days' gap."
"So we will have to use it in the best possible manner so that the guys are fresh because we have got enough experience when it comes to playing in these conditions. We have been here for the last couple of months. But it's important from now on to be fresh. To assess carefully as to whether we need to spend more time on the field or we need to switch off from cricket and try to be fresh because we have another couple of months that we have to spend here."
Time off, Dhoni said, could help someone like Shikhar Dhawan, who has had only one good innings - 80 in the second innings of the Gabba Test when there wasn't much to lose - on the tour. He was dropped from the last ODI in New Zealand in 2014, and he bounced back with runs in the Tests. Here he was dropped in the last Test, but that hasn't brought him runs in the two ODIs so far. In both the innings he has fallen to balls that have moved a little, for scores of 2 and 1.
"It is difficult for me to think about how much pressure he will be under but the guys - whenever we step out of the subcontinent - they want to score. Because of that they put in a lot more effort. When you put in a lot more effort it actually drains you out. You need a bit of time off and actually at times when you have a string of games when you are not scoring at times it is best to just go out and express yourself. That's something that Adam Gilchrist used to do very well. When he was slightly out of form he used to play his shots, but when he was out of form he used to play his shots right from the very first ball. Often that helps."
"Just being expressive and not thinking about too many things. Just watch the ball and play your shots. Form is always about five to 10 runs. It's not that you have to score a 50 to get back to form. What we have seen is you score a good couple of shots and all of a sudden you are in form. You know, 15 minutes and you are out of form. It is something that nobody sees. It is the feel that you have. Once you start middling the ball, you always feel better."
Dhoni was asked if he has seen signs of fatigue - mental if not physical - in the team. "So far it's not there but what is important is that before you see the symptoms you cope with that," he said. "From now on, with a bit more gap between the ODIs, and between the tri-series and the World Cup, we will have to use it very wisely."
"No doubt a four-and-a-half month tour is a very long tour. Whatever said and done, staying away, we have seen cricketers, within 15 days they feel homesick and they go back to their country. Four-and-a-half months away from everything, it is tough, but at the same time we have the preparation in mind. We knew this was going to happen, and we are quite good at it. There have not been many cases of Indian cricketers saying we are homesick. We will have a bit more of team activities, we will have a bit more fun, maybe have paintball with the media people one day, and that will be fun. That's the kind of thing you have to do on a long tour."
India's next match is on Australia Day and India's Republic Day, giving them a five-day break. They will have to win that game to make sure their Perth visit is not a dead rubber.
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