Defeated, Shastri backs Kohli’s men
London: The coach says the team has played better overseas than Indian teams of the last 15-20 years
India have lost the Test series in England, but coach Ravi Shastri insists that the current lot is travelling better than the teams of the last 15-20 years.
India lost by 62 runs in the fourth Test at Southampton to go 1-3 down in the five-match series.
“As hard as our guys tried, England were one-up on us there. Nothing to take away (from them), the endeavour of this team is to travel well, compete and win. If you look at the last three years, we have won nine matches overseas and three series (against West Indies and twice in Sri Lanka),” said Shastri here on Wednesday. “I can’t see any other Indian team in the last 15-20 years that has had the same run in such a short time, and you have had some great players playing in those series. So the promise is there, it’s just about getting tougher mentally,” pointed Shastri.
“The scoreline says 3-1, which means India, have lost the series. What the scoreline doesn’t say is that India could have been 3-1 or it could have been 2-2, and my team knows it. They would have been hurt and rightly so after the last game. But this is a team that will not throw in the towel,” the coach said ahead of the fifth and final Test starting here on Friday.
Improvement areas Talking about what the batsmen can do to improve and cross the finish line, he said: “I think shot selection left a lot to be desired. We blew away a very good position straight away after tea on day two (in Southampton). That’s an area where you can tighten, and be aware of what the team needs. Being aware of the match situation will be a big help. I think that was crucial more than anything else.”
“I thought at 180/4, there was a definite chance of a 75-80 run lead, and that would have been crucial. So that hurts.” Shastri, meanwhile, said Moeen Ali was the key difference between the two sides, and he bowled better than R Ashwin, hitting the rough patches more than the Indian off-spinner.
While it looks increasingly likely that Ashwin will miss out on the fifth Test, the coach said the spinner was fully fit when picked for the fourth Test and that Ali simply bowled better.
“Ashwin was fit. You have to give credit to Moeen Ali there on the last day. To be honest, he bowled magnificently,” said Shastri.
He also complimented Cheteshwar Pujara for his first innings’ hundred and said while conditions had been tough for batsmen they needed to find a way to stay in the middle. “Pujara’s was an absolutely khadoos (stubborn) innings.”
“You obviously need the top order to give you a start but if you look at both sides, it’s not been easy for the top order. The bowling has been good, really good, and it’s been a challenge and it is how you overcome that challenge.”
When asked about Hardik Pandya’s ability to bat at number six, and the need for flexibility in bowling attack, the coach replied: “When you’re young, you’ve to be thrown into the deep end. You’ve to persevere and see, if it works or it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, there’ll be another option.”
“But you have to give that opportunity when you think there is that talent there. And stick with that. You always have to be flexible. You can’t be rigid in your thinking.”
India will be playing for pride in the fifth Test, which will also be Alastair Cook’s last match. “I saw his first Test match. Saw him getting a hundred in Nagpur. He’s been one of England’s greatest cricketers. He always came across a mentally tough bloke, real tough cookie,” said Shastri.