SYDNEY: Australia are still favourites to win the four-test series against India even without Steve Smith and David Warner because of the strength of their bowling attack, Ajinkya Rahane said on Tuesday.
Many pundits have tipped India to end their 70-year wait for a first test series triumph in Australia after their top batsmen Smith and Warner were banned for a year in the aftermath of March's ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
Rahane, however, was keen to throw the pressure of expectation back on the hosts when the much-anticipated series gets underway in Adelaide on Thursday, and scoffed when he was asked whether Australia would be ripe for the picking.
"Not really," the India vice-captain told reporters at Adelaide Oval.
"I feel that any team that plays at home, they feel really good, and I feel that Australia are still the favourites to win the series.
"We are not going to take them lightly at all. Yes, they (will) miss Steve Smith and David Warner but I don't think they are vulnerable.
"You see their bowling attack, they've got a really good bowling attack, and I think to win test matches, you need to have a really good bowling attack. So I feel that Australia are really still the favourites."
Although not quite reaching the heights of captain Virat Kohli's 692 runs, Rahane had a good tour the last time India visited Australia in 2014-15 with 399 runs at an average of 57.
India still lost the series 2-0, however, and the 30-year-old suggested the players had learned the importance of contributing to the team effort on that trip.
"When you do well as a team, you feel really good," he added.
"This is a team sport ... and it is the job of each and every bat to contribute for the team. And I think it's important that we get those long partnerships together, in Australia that will really help us a lot."
Rahane and Kohli did that in the Boxing Day test on the last tour, putting together a fourth-wicket stand of 262 in India's first innings with scores of 147 and 169 respectively while illustrating their different approaches to the game.
"Last time here, we really enjoyed batting together a lot, especially at the MCG," Rahane recalled.
"Mitchell Johnson was really going after Virat Kohli and I was at the other end playing my game. Virat at the other end was really aggressive and going after bowlers.
"I was able to focus on my game, I still attacked but I was completely the opposite to Virat."
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Peter Rutherford)