Team India ended their two month long South African tour with a 5-1 ODI series win and 2-1 T20I series win; despite losing the Test series 1-2. Led by Virat Kohli and the Indian pace battery, Team India showed tremendous fight to defeat the hosts in their own backyard.
Indian coach Ravi Shastri told Mid-Day, “What I am very proud about is that the boys fought on each of the 21 days of cricket there which is unreal for an Indian team on any tour for that matter. Every day they had a chance. Out of 12 matches, we won eight. What can one say? You’ve just got to give the boys credit.”
Ravi Shastri brushed aside the notion that the limited overs win lost its sheen because of the absence of Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers, who missed the first three ODIs.
“I’ve been more to South Africa than any other nation, so I know how difficult South Africa is. This is the biggest problem with our critics. When you win, the other team is not playing well. When you win in Sri Lanka, they are a weak team. When you play South Africa, they are not at their best. Remember, a team is only as good as you allow it to be. It’s as simple as that. No one says the Indian team were not at their best when we lose… When we lose, we lose,” said Shastri.
He continued, “I can’t fathom and I don’t have an answer for that. By the way, we are not playing players, we are playing a country so I don’t care what is on offer. I am playing against South Africa. Who plays for South Africa is not my problem.”
Shastri pointed at the reaction received from locals. “I walked through a mall and there were people saying, ‘coach… outstanding!’ B Arun (bowling coach Bharat) and R Sridhar (fielding coach) went shopping on Sunday and were told, ‘When are you guys going back? You’ve given us a whipping, we’ve had enough.’ This is the ultimate!”
Talking about the loss in the first two Tests, Shastri said, “Very few people saw it, but we could have won both those games. Sometimes you feel in your country, people are happy when you lose. We pulled out a calculation where we looked at sessions and we were just two sessions behind and those cost us two Test matches. I said, take the positives out of that and go into the next Test match to win — not to draw — to win! Not many teams would have batted first on that [Johannesburg] track. It was a nasty one.”
Shastri pointed out that despite ICC rating the pitch for the 3rd Test at Wanderers ‘poor’, he rates the pitch as ‘nasty’. He said that the Indian team didn’t raise any complains on the nature of pitches presented to them and said that he would expect the visiting sides to do the same when they visit India.
“We don’t complain about pitches. We go and play and the message is very clear — when you come to my country, never question the pitches because I will say, ‘take a walk.’ We don’t give excuses; we play on what we are offered,” said Shastri. “That’s how my boys play. And it’s a ground rule — no complaints, no excuses… it’s the same pitch for both teams.”