Melbourne: A Test series win over Australia on home soil is the top prize in world cricket and one which is highly coveted by Indias veteran players on perhaps their final tour Down Under, says India captain Anil Kumble.
Kumble acknowledged the enormity of the task facing his 16-man Indian squad, which arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday to prepare for a four-Test series starting on December 26.
India have never beaten Australia in a Test series in Australia and that prize remains a major inducement to players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, who are likely touring Australia for the last time.
It means a lot, we came pretty close to (winning) the last time we came here, Kumble said of the 2004-2004 series. Leading up to the (final) Sydney Test match it was 1-1 and we did extremely well in the last Test series (to draw), so its going to be very crucial for all of us.
Most of the senior cricketers are here on their last tour of Australia, so its very important we go back victorious, he added.
Kumble said it would mean a great deal to Indian cricket to be able to win a series in Australia.
Not many teams have come here and gone home victorious, so its a great opportunity for all of us and we look forward to that, he said.
The last time a team beat Australia Down Under was the West Indies in 1991-1992.
What makes the task even more daunting is that the Australians have not lost a Test since august 2005 and are on a 14-Test winning streak at the moment.
Asked to identify any weakness in the Australian team, Kumble pointed to spin bowling in the absence of Shane Warne.
They miss Warnie, somebody like him, so thats something, an area, we can (exploit), he said.
Sachin Tendulkar, while admitting it might be his last tour to Australia, said the Indian players were confident of a good show.
I think it will be my last tour, I dont know whats in store but I am just going to enjoy my cricket. Australia has been a fantastic place, weve come here in good shape and are looking forward to this tour, he was quoted as saying by a Sydney-based newspaper.
He felt age would not be a factor in the Test series. Asked whether it would be a disadvantage against the supremely athletic Aussies, Sachins curt reply was, no, not really.
He looked equally optimistic about the pace attacks penetration. Asked if an attack, led by left-arm seamers Zaheer Khan and R.P. Singh were able to take 20 Australian wickets, Sachin said: Yes, we do. We have done that in the past so I dont see any problem.
The Indian team later had a light run in the MCG.
Meanwhile, Australia coach Tim Nielsen said the Indians would have to be at their best to challenge the hosts.
Its all great to talk the talk, the real challenge for both sides is to walk the walk come Boxing Day, he said.
India open their tour with a three-day warm-up match against Victoria state starting Thursday, their only match ahead of the December 26 Test.