India’s head coach Ravi Shastri on Tuesday backed the team as they look to not only seal the series against Sri Lanka, but prepare for a spell that will consist of a number of challenging overseas tours, including South Africa and England.
Shastri said that the team had it in them to achieve what no other Indian outfit had done before. The former India skipper added that the team was playing a fearless brand of cricket and were well on their way to achieving something special in the coming seasons.
“This team has been together for a two years now,” Shastri told reporters ahead of the second Test in Colombo on Tuesday. “They are much more experienced now. They have already done things which a lot of Indian teams and some big names could not achieve, like winning a series here (Sri Lanka). A lot of big players with 20 years of experience have not done,” he added.
“So when one says South Africa and England coming up, I see it as an opportunity. This team can do things that probably no Indian team has done.”
The Virat Kohli era
The head coach also raved about skipper Virat Kohli, stating that the 28-year-old could go on to be counted among the best captains in the world.
“He is still young. I can see a big difference in him since his first Test as captain and now. I was there when he led the team in Adelaide. You can see it in the body language. He will continue to mature. For his age he has done a lot. But, there are signs that he can be up there with the best.”
Asked if it was a challenge for him to helm the side after a break, Shastri said the team had responded as if he had never left.
“For me nothing had changed when I walked in as I had left it,” he said. “The boys were fantastic in the last Test, there are still areas to improve. We have already discussed them. What we want from the team is consistency.”
Shastri was involved in an incident-filled selection process for the head coach just ahead of the tour that included, among other things, confusion surrounding the members of the support staff. The former all-rounder, though, had his way in the end and brought in Bharath Arun as the bowling coach to join Sanjay Bangar (assistant coach) and R Sridhar (fielding coach) in the back-room staff.
The ongoing series against Sri Lanka is Shastri’s first assignment since vacating his position as Team Director one year ago. In his first game, India registered a 304-run win over the hosts to get his new stint off to a flying start.
Answering a query over his exact role in the set-up, Shastri said his job was to ensure the team was in a great mental space each time they entered the field.
“My job is to be in-charge of entire support staff and ensure the boys are in some great mental space to go out and express themselves with nothing else on their minds but to play go out and play a brand of cricket that’s fearless, positive and what we have seen them do over these past few years,” Shastri said.
“I have been manager, Team director and now I am coach. Its the same role. There’s nothing that I have to change. The fact that I have watched the sport for a long time, without a break helps. You know what’s contemporary. I don’t think t this level coaching is not needed at this level its only about fine-tuning. Its about getting the blokes in good mental space.
“The amount of cricket that’s played, you can fall into a bad habit. That’s where the experience of having played the game and watched it for so long comes in handy,” he added.
Keeping an eye on KL Rahul
India opener KL Rahul was back in the nets on Tuesday after missing out the first Test due to viral fever but Shastri kept cards close to his chest about the stylish right-hander’s participation in the second Test.
“Rahul is (doing) good. We are watching him closely. He went through some tough times and he was in the hospital for 2-3 days. Obviously, it has taken a lot out of him.
“So we have to be very careful how we treat him, we are watching him very closely and he is getting better by the day,” Shastri said.
Like skipper Kohli, Shastri also spoke in same vein about having a good bench strength, now that Rahul is getting fit and Abhinav Mukund keeping himself in the hunt with an 81 in the second innings of the first Test.
“When I have good bench strength, it is very good. When there is competition for places even better because that’s healthy competition and a good headache to have. Where you know if someone is injured someone else is ready and that is across all formats.
“It is very good but ideally you want your core team to be fit and on the park as often as possible,” said Shastri.