Melbourne:India vice-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni obliquely admitted that his team will be going into the Boxing Day (Dec 26) Test match against Australia rather ill-prepared if they are looking to end the hosts' 14-Test winning streak.
India's only warm-up game begins against Victoria at Junction Oval Thursday, but their biggest worry is the forecast of rain on all three days and the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, who is likely to be kept fresh for the first of the four-Test series at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
"It's always better to have a few sessions before a big Test match and we don't really have much time for practice," said Dhoni, who is on his first visit to Australia after playing 22 Tests.
On Tendulkar's fitness, following his withdrawal from last week's third Test against Pakistan with a sore knee, Dhoni said: "He is improving, but if he feels he needs a little more rest to be cent percent fit for the Test, he may not play."
Dhoni said the prospect of rain was a concern. "You'd love to have more time, but that's too many ifs and buts. Even if it rains, nothing can be done about it, we'll go to the indoors and have a knock," he said.
Sourav Ganguly looked nothing like a man who made a double hundred in Bangalore just over a week earlier while fellow former captain Rahul Dravid was a little better, and Yuvraj Singh did some practice. Tendulkar had a gentle hit against the team's physio.
Coming off a compacted three-Test series against Pakistan, which was pushed back to accommodate the Twenty-20 World Championship, poses another challenge that Dhoni admitted was problematic, that of adjusting from the low, slow sub-continental conditions to the more lively surfaces of Australia - an issue for bowlers as much as batsmen.
"Lots of bounce," he said, laughing, when asked what India was expecting in Australia, along with good, aggressive cricket. "Getting used to the conditions is very important . . . so the practice game is important, especially when you're coming from a series in India. When you're playing in Australia, the length you're bowling is very important, very different to where you bowl in the sub-continent or England."
Fast bowlers Ishant Sharma and Rudra Pratap Singh are both in contention to support Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan in the pace bowling department, while captain Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh will cover the spin duties.
Dhoni said, playing on Melbourne's drop-in wicket that has been criticised by Victoria players for lack of pace and bounce, was not necessarily an advantage.
"If it's Australia, even if it's slow and low, it would be nothing compared to the fastest wicket in India."
So to Shaun Tait, who Dhoni said the Indians had been studying on video, monitoring the different angles at which he delivers the ball at express pace.
"We have seen the videos but it's how you perform on the field, you have to react quickly."
Australia anywhere in the world is a challenge, Dhoni said, "whether it's Test cricket, one-day cricket or T-20".