Team India’s performance graph has been on the upwards direction since Ravi Shastri became the head coach of the team. His fearless attitude combined with that of the Indian captain Virat Kohli has sent the message to the team that winning is the only option for them.
Talking about the pep talk given to the team on the morning of the practice game, Shastri said, “We have done exceptionally well in white-ball cricket. We showed some very good signs in South Africa as far as the red ball is concerned. We want to carry that forward. The challenge for us is to be consistent in the red-ball format overseas. We believe we have the potential to be one of the best traveling teams. At the moment, there is no side in the world that travels properly. You can see what is happening to South Africa in Sri Lanka. We know our scorelines in England before this tour: 4-0 , 3-1 . We want to do much better than that.”
Talking about the conditions and pitches, Shastri said, “The square will be different, the outfield will be different and the weather conditions will be different to back in India. But whatever the conditions, the balls move in England. In South Africa, we played on some spicy tracks.”
Shastri said that playing out Broad and Anderson was crucial, “The first 20-25 overs are extremely crucial. If you can come through that period [unscathed] then you get a set a good platform. Understanding your role, understanding what the team needs in those 20 overs, the discipline needed to see off those 20 overs and make sure you lose as few wickets as possible.”
“He has been picked as the third opener. But our batting order will always be flexible. The third opener can play anywhere in the top four. We are a very, very flexible outfit. Be prepared for that. We will surprise you guys at times,” Shastri said about KL Rahul.
Shastri seemed to back Pujara to come good despite his series of low scores, “He's an extremely experienced player. I feel he is one innings away [from a big score]. He needs to spend time at the crease. If he gets one 60-70 under his belt, he will be a different player altogether. My job is to make sure he is thinking in that fashion. We have seen once he gets in, he makes it count. He is one player who will really make it count and hold the innings together, so he becomes important.”
He added, “Pujara is an anchor. He has been one of the pillars of this batting line-up for a long time. You know what he does - he loves batting (smiles). We just want him to do it. Unfortunately, in South Africa, he was run out a couple of times.”
Shastri also talked about captain Virat Kohli, “You tell me. Look at his record. I don't have to spell out what he has done in the last four years. When you perform in that fashion, you are mentally at a different level as well. You are waiting for whatever test comes your way. Yes, he might have had an ordinary series when he came here four years ago. But four years down the line he is the best player in the world. And he would like to get out there and show the British public why he is the best player in the world.”
“He knows his game. It is just about re-emphasizing certain little things which you see and basically keeping things simple, not creating things that don't exist. In a Test match, his focus would be three times more. He would have been a lot more disappointed if he had got out in that fashion in a Test match because he had hardly put a foot wrong. In that entire innings when the ball was doing quite a bit, he was beaten just three times. I would rather have him get out here than get out in a Test match in a similar fashion,” he added.
Talking about the spinners especially Kuldeep, Shastri said, “Kuldeep could be picked at any stage. There is [Ravindra] Jadeja. There is Ashwin. Depending on the surface, we will have to decide whether to go for one or two spinners. That will be our headache. But yes, Kuldeep has arrived. He has already played Test cricket. He had done decently in the ODIs. Kuldeep is also hungry. He is a tough little nut. And with more exposure, he will only get better.”
“He was getting runs for India A. He is young. It is also time to groom another keeper. He has the flair. He has something unorthodox about him when it comes to his batting. He can be a game changer, so why not give him the opportunity?” said Shastri about Rishabh Pant’s selection.
(With inputs from ESPNCricinfo)