As India prepare for their a five-Test series in England starting on Wednesday, head coach Ravi Shastri is confident that the current team is capable of becoming one of the best touring teams in the world. Since the start of 2014, India have managed to win just nine of the 25 Tests they have played overseas. Five of those came in Sri Lanka (two in 2015 and three in 2017) and two of them against West Indies in 2016. However, Virat Kohli’s men were competitive against a well-rounded South African side though they ended up losing the series 1-2 in the Rainbow Nation after failing to capitalize on crucial moments in the first two Tests.
“The challenge for us is to be consistent in the red-ball format overseas,” said Shastri in an interview with ESPNCricinfo. “We believe we have the potential to be one of the best travelling 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 (2011), 3-1 (2014). We want to do much better than that.”
Speaking about the upcoming series, the former all-rounder believes that the visitors have an equal chance of winning the series as the hosts, owing the ability of this bowling line-up to dismiss the opposition twice in five days.
“We have a bowling attack that can take 20 wickets. We are not bothered by what conditions we play in. We have the variety but we need to execute our plans in the best possible manner. And bat well, which is important. Our batting let us down in South Africa.”
The conditions in England, at present, resemble the subcontinent more than that of the British Isles. In fact, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) have relaxed the dress code at Lord’s during the first Test, with members not required to wear the traditional jackets to attend the Test. However, Shastri asserted that the warm conditions does not hand the visitors an edge in the series.
“The square will be different, “he said. “The outfield will be different and the weather conditions will be different to back in India. But whatever the conditions, the balls moves in England.”
During the course of the series, focus will be on Indian captain Virat Kohli, particularly on his output with the bat. India’s premier batsman had a poor showing during the tour in 2014, averaging only 13.4 in ten innings. Shastri, though, is of the opinion that the current version of Kohli is better than what he was four years ago.
“I don’t have to spell out what he has done in the last four years,” he said. “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.”
Shastri reckoned that India have to play fearless cricket, trust their instincts and the results will fall in their favour, and emphasized that they are here to win.
“We will have some fun. We are aggressive. We play to win. Even this series we are playing to win. We are not here to draw games or fill in the numbers. We play every game to win and take the game forward. And if in trying to win we lose a game, tough luck. As long as we win more than we lose, we are happy.”
First Published: July 30, 2018, 8:03 AM IST
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