There has been much talk, including from Australian opener Joe Burns, about the “mental scars” India may carry into the marquee Test of the summer but Paine said his team could not think that way.
“We can’t pay any attention to mental scars, whatever that people are talking about. We know India is a proud cricket country. They are an extremely talented Test match side with lots of dangerous players,” he said on Friday.
“The moment we take out foot off the pedal and think we are going all right, we saw in England in that fifth Test, that we can come unstuck pretty quickly. So, a huge focus of ours since that fifth Test in the Ashes has been winning after winning and our attitude towards the next game.
“The last week we have been fantastic in the way we have prepared for this game. We know that some of the players they are talking about coming in to their side like a KL Rahul or a Rishabh Pant are dangerous players who like to take the game on and will play positively. If we give guys like that an inch, they will take a mile.”
The Australians had been a major battle in Adelaide until Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood destroyed the tourists’ second innings with a superb spell of pitched-up bowling which repeatedly caught the edge, while also leaving tailender Mohammed Shami with a broken arm care of a nasty short ball.
Life in a biosecure bubble, where players cannot enjoy their usual freedoms, can become suffocating when teams repeatedly lose. Paine is aware of that and knows there is a chance the Indians – who may make up to five changes to their XI – could implode if they were crunched in Melbourne.
“Living in a hub or a bubble, it is certainly easier when you are playing well, there is no doubt about that,” Paine said.
“But, the flip side to that is, you are really close, you are really tight-knit and you are always around each other. It can go both ways. We have been on overseas tours before to India or South Africa and we were bowled out for 50. It can be really difficult, so, again … that’s why it is so important for us to turn up with the attitude that we turned up with in the first Test.
“We know they [India] are not going to roll over. We are going to have to work our backsides off to get them in a position like we did in Adelaide. If we can do it again, then Tests three and four can become a real battle for them. But, first, we have got to start well and put them back under the pump.”
The Australians held a light training session at the MCG on Christmas Day. Having eased the pressure on his spot in Adelaide, Burns received throwdowns from watchful coach Justin Langer, while young Oliver McDonald, the son of assistant coach Andrew, showed he is a chip off the old block with some impressive form facing gentle lobs from Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser.
The makeshift opening pair of Burns and Matthew Wade will be retained because David Warner (groin) has yet not fully recovered, Will Pucovski (concussion) was ruled out and Marcus Harris was overlooked.
Wade has reinvented himself from a wicketkeeper-batsman into a specialist middle-order hard-nut over the past two years, and could even be retained as Warner’s partner should he post a big score in Melbourne.
“There is no doubt, Wadey, as I said, would do a great job for us whether he bats one through to seven. We know that. He is a flexible cricketer, he has shown that in all formats of the game,” Paine said.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter