Team India under the leadership of Virat Kohli is doing wonders of late, be it in Test cricket or limited-overs format. Such is the domination of ‘Men in Blue’ that they have recently registered their ninth consecutive Tests series victory. And now India’s chief coach Ravi Shastri has stated that the team is eagerly waiting for their forthcoming South Africa challenge and is keen to prove themselves away from home.
"This team is looking good and they have their priorities in place. They're hungry to prove themselves at home and away. For two years, barring the tour of Sri Lanka in July and August, we played at home, especially the whole of 2016, and while that was a job well done, these boys understand the importance of the year 2018,” Shastri was quoted as saying by Times of India.
“Frankly, we're not too hooked on to this "home and away" thing where a lot of chatter goes on about conditions that aren't too familiar. For instance, once you've played a Test match in Kolkata, how long does it take before you play another Test there? Two years? Sometimes three? It's the same as an overseas tour. So that mindset is quite passe'. In this day and age, wherever you go, it's home. You just got to walk in there and perform. It's often been argued that India are poor travellers. We want to be the team that helped change this perception and this is the year to do it," the head coach further added.
The 55-year-old also justified the selection of Jasprit Bumrah for South Africa Tests besides elaborating the omission of wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
"The kind of tracks that will be made available to us in South Africa won't come in too handy for a wrist spinner, which is what Kuldeep is. That aside, this is going to be a long journey and there are multiple things to focus on, including the next World Cup (2019). Right now, Ashwin is fresh after two busy seasons post the 2015 World Cup. When you look at the overall combination of this attack, it rounds off very well. That aside, both Ashwin and Jadeja can bat. Putting runs on the board will be as important as picking wickets," Shastri explained.
"Bumrah has just worked his way to the top so well. He's young, hard working, and has a unique action with which he can whip up quite some pace. Bumrah adds a lot of value to this attack. We have to earn those 20 wickets if we have to make any impact in a Test match and we need all the arsenal possible because it's going to be quite a testing tour. Look at how the South African squad is turning out, Dale Steyn's back, [Morne] Morkel's looking good (he had sustained a side strain against Bangladesh in October), then there's [Kagiso] Rabada, [Vernon] Philander. It's about being able to have a combination that can be rotated and we have neat options." he added.
Earlier, skipper Virat Kohli had said that they should have prepared for South Africa in a camp like scenario since it would’ve helped them to acclimatize to the conditions in a better way. Endorsing Kohli’s viewpoint, Shastri said: "Ideally, we'd have preferred a good 10 to 12 days in South Africa before the start of the Tests. But that's fine. Going forward, the BCCI has assured us that these things will be looked at differently.”
“The BCCI has done an excellent job with the new Future Tours Program (FTP). The Board has ensured that the team will no longer go on such long tours that involve two or three months at a go. The idea is to break up these long tours just the way England and Australia operate. England has always preferred to tour India for Tests, go back, and return for the shorter formats. This is how India's going to operate moving forward. This kind of scheduling will also help teams prepare better and stay focused on the format they're heading to play," Ravi concluded.
India Test Squad:
Virat Kohli(c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Parthiv Patel, Jasprit Bumrah
Itinerary (India’s tour to South Africa):
Jan 05 - Jan 09, 1st Test – Newlands, Cape Town
Jan 13 - Jan 17, 2nd Test – SuperSport Park, Centurion
Jan 24 - Jan 28, 3rd Test – New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
Feb 01, 1st ODI – Kingsmead, Durban
Feb 04, 2nd ODI – SuperSport Park, Centurion
Feb 07, 3rd ODI – Newlands, Cape Town
Feb 10, 4th ODI – New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
Feb 13, 5th ODI – St George's Park, Port Elizabeth
Feb 16, 6th ODI – SuperSport Park, Centurion
Feb 18, 1st T20I – New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
Feb 21, 2nd T20I – SuperSport Park, Centurion
Feb 24, 3rd T20I – Newlands, Cape Town