India under weight of expectation, say Aussies
AUSTRALIA has vowed to turn Virat Kohli into a faceless man in the first Test in India, adamant it's the world's most feared batsman who is most under the pump and not the visitors.
It might sound like a desperate attempt at reverse psychology, but sub-continental newcomer Peter Handscomb insists Australia has arrived in Pune motivated by the freedom of having nothing to lose.
Josh Hazlewood, too, believes they can use India's supreme confidence that they will wipe the floor with Australia as a weapon against it.
Thirteen years of misery on Indian soil doesn't appear to be weighing on the minds of an Australian side that believes it's India and its superstars Kohli and Ravi Ashwin who are in fact on a hiding to nothing, so great are the odds against the tourists.
The Aussies have been publicly playing down their chances in India, a noticeable retreat from their usual gung-ho mentality.
However, Handscomb made it clear the one thing Australia wouldn't be doing is falling at Kohli's feet, and by doing that it hopes the home side may suffer at the hands of its own extreme favouritism.
"The funny thing is they're the ones under pressure. It's not us," Handscomb said.
"They're in their home series. They're in their own conditions and they're seen as being these great players in the world, but mainly in India.
"So all the pressure is on them.
"If they don't score runs or they don't take wickets then they look bad.
"For us it's about going out there and playing with that freedom. Not really playing the man, but just playing the ball that comes down or controlling the ball we can bowl.
"To say we expect to win in India is a tough thing to say ... but we are definitely trying to win the series. We know it's going to be ridiculously tough in these conditions."
Hazlewood believes if Australia can find a way to fight its way against the tidal wave of factors stacking up against it in Pune, it can strike a major psychological blow to India's hopes of maintaining a 20-match unbeaten streak at home.
Australia feels like it's been written off so comprehensively, it actually puts it in a position of strength.
"Every Test we play at home we're expected to win and all the pressure is on us," Hazlewood said.
"Shoe's on the other foot now with India.
"They're expected to smash us really. If we put them under pressure early in this first Test hopefully they crumble."