Test specialist Ajinkya Rahane believes that for a team batting first, 320 remains a par first-innings total, and even though India are the No. 1-ranked team in the world, New Zealand start overwhelming favourites.

“I think New Zealand are favourites in their home conditions. But I still feel the host country remains favourite because they know what to bowl and batsman are aware of what shots to play. As a unit we need to learn and adapt quickly as New Zealand grounds have different angles,” Rahane said on a cautious note on the eve of the Test match,” Rahane, vice-captain of the side, told reporters on the eve of the first Test in Wellington.

Rahane’s prediction stems from the fact that each time India have registered a win in SENA nations, where India won putting modest totals. Against England at Lord’s in 2014, India posted 295, followed by 250 at Adelaide during the 2018/19 Border-Gavaskar trophy. Rahane thinks batting first gives the team an advantage.

“When you bat first, your mindset is always positive, not saying that it’s not when you bowl first. If you get 320 to 330 outside India in first innings, it’s a very good total. All the matches if you see we won (in England and Australia), we got around 320 to 350 runs on the board in the first innings,” he said.

India have the bowlers to back their batsmen. They are likely to field a four-pronged bowling composition with Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami being the three pacers, while R Ashwin will handle the spin department. Besides, the fact that India’s fast bowling unit is considered one of, if not the best in the world, also played a role in Rahane’s confident words.

“We know that our bowlers can take wickets in any condition but suppose you lose the toss and have to bat first, you should know that you are in right kind of mindset to actually go out there and tackle those situations,” he said. “Keeping mindset right in seaming conditions even if you lose the toss is really important. Same goes to bowlers who should keep their mindset right on flat wickets. They should actually have the belief to take 20 wickets on flat tracks, said the veteran of 63 Tests.”

Rahane admitted that Rishabh Pant is going through a bad phase, but highlighted the importance to address the issue as quickly as possible for the young wicketkeeper batsman to emerge out of it. India have played eight international matches during this tour without Pant featuring in any of them. He was given a game during the three-day warm-up where he scored 70 but despite a decent outing, Pant isn’t guaranteed a place in India’s Playing XI for the first Test in Wellington.

As someone who has been dropped from the Indian team. Rahane had a word of advice for his young teammate

“It’s important to accept whatever you are going through. Be positive, try and learn as many things as possible from any of the players. Not saying it has to be senior or junior,” he said. “See no one likes to sit outside but whatever your team needs on a particular game, you have got to accept that. I think acceptance is really important talking about that particular individual. Focus on the controllables, keeping working hard and improve as a cricketer.”

“You should try and focus on what he can control as player and keep visualizing that you will get an opportunity. You know what your role is. For Rishabh, he bats at No 6 or 7, so keep visualising about what if he gets an opportunity and what his role is. Keep it simple.”

New Zealand holds a special place in Rahane’s heart for it was this very venue the Basin Reserve, where the batsman registered his maiden Test century when India toured back in 2014.

“That was a really special moment for me, getting that first hundred. I keep watching my maiden hundred,” he fondly recollected. “I remember that my back-lift was changing because of the wind and that was a challenge to control it. Sometimes you got to play with low back-lift and you have got to change your guard may be and play accordingly. This is a new challenge playing after 4-5 years. That team was comparatively young team.”