Those who've played in Australia know what it takes to win here – Ravi Shastri | Buzz It up

Those who've played in Australia know what it takes to win here – Ravi Shastri


“This IPL will be about monitoring the players, keeping the World Cup in mind.” © Getty

It would not be wrong to say that like Indian cricket captain, Virat Kohli, Indian coach Ravi Shastri too has a karmic connection with Australia. He was crowned Champion Of Champions in 1985 in Melbourne. He was there at the other end and remained not out in the famous tied Test in Madras in 1986. His highest Test score of 206 came in Sydney in 1992. Now, he becomes the first man to mastermind an Indian win in a Test series Down Under. Still soaking in the accolades, the 56-year-old spoke to TOI from Sydney on Wednesday to look back on a memorable campaign. Excerpts:

A great win, but bigger than 1983? Did you really mean it that way?

This is the purest form of cricket. A 71-year-old barrier has been broken and accolades flowing from all over the world – from the likes of Imran Khan or Viv Richards – say it all. Those who’ve played cricket in Australia know what it takes to win here. They’re as tough as an opposition can get and nothing comes easy here. Of course, the 1983 World Cup glory is right up there and so was 1985. But I do stand by what I said – this is pure joy, this is real cricket. This is a young team, it is their moment and they should have a good sense of the kind of history they’ve made here. In fact, they do.

So, a year ends on a promising note and the next begins on a high like never before. Now, World Cup beckons…

Yes, that’s the only thing on our minds now – the World Cup. Mentally, we’re already switching from red (ball) to white. Players who’ve been playing continuous cricket have been given a break. Bumrah, for instance. He’ll have a good rest. At the same time, we’ll use these matches (ODIs coming up in Australia and New Zealand) to fine-tune things. We’re not bothered about winning or losing these games.

The IPL begins in March. Same old questions will be asked – whether it’s worth playing them in a T20 league right ahead of the World Cup. And God forbid, if there are injuries, it’ll only lead to controversies…

We’ve been in touch with the BCCI and CoA in this regard. We have certain plans in place and we’ll be looking to follow them. Usually, the two months of IPL are seen as relatively free months for me and I can just sit down and enjoy the cricket, watch out for new, young talents that keep emerging. But this IPL will be about monitoring the players, keeping the World Cup in mind. There’s a lot coming up and you’ll see the right measures being taken. The trainer, physios, assistant coaches, the captain, me – we’re all in touch with the Board to make this work.

Australia and Virat Kohli have a karmic connection of sorts…

Oh, he loves it here because they love him and his brand of cricket. The Aussies fight hard, hate giving away anything easy. And that’s Virat for you. He’s a fighter who plays his cricket hard. He loves a good challenge, loves giving it in the face. His passion and perseverance is a shot in the arm for Test cricket and when you have an individual with a combination of talent and personality like that, it begins to show inside the dressing room too. He has his priorities sorted – not here to please anyone.

Kohli has struggled to win tosses. But whenever he’s won it, the team has won…

Yes, if we keep Nottingham aside (India lost the toss but won the Test) – Johannesburg, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney (India were on the verge of winning), whenever India’s won the toss, they’ve won the Test. So, luck has a role to play too because toss is not something in your hands. And despite losing the toss, we came so close to winning in Cape Town, Edgbaston and were very much in the game in the last two Tests in England.

The pacers have been a revelation right from the South Africa tour…

Absolutely. Ishant, Shami, Bumrah – they’ve been fantastic. Until a couple of years ago, Shami used to be so injury-prone. Lasting an entire series alone would be a high-point. For a bowler of his calibre, working on fitness has brought tremendous rewards. The benchmarks set for fitness – be it the YoYo tests or just day-to-day training – have helped immensely. Ishant has been a workhorse, the backbone of this attack and Boom (Bumrah) – well, what can I say. To set fear in the hearts of batsmen on tours of England and Australia is in itself quite an achievement. Look at what Ian Chappell is saying: This is the finest pace attack to visit Australia. Even Kapil has said he finds this Indian pace attack “unbelievably good”.

While fitness is something that India have worked well on, it’s also something that’s left the team worried on certain occasions…

Look, injury sustained during play is one thing and maintaining an overall level of fitness at this level is another. You can’t do much about injuries. You can’t control them. But you can certainly make sure that your fitness levels match the highest standards. When I took over for the second time (as coach), I was very clear that fitness of players will be paramount and that’s the one thing we’ve pursued with great discipline. Barring a few instances, the players have largely made for a fit unit. That aside, a lot of credit goes to how the support staff has played their part here.

Pujara’s batting has been pure joy…

Good old Test match batting. That’s what he brought to the crease every time he walked out. In world cricket today, if there’s anybody out there looking for that one guy to save your day, save you Test matches, it’s him (Pujara). He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t get rattled. Nothing can distract him. And when a batsman like that – who knows where his strengths lie – gets his space, bowlers obviously can’t do much. The way he’s tackled both pace and spin, especially Lyon in this series has been fantastic.

There seems to be a lot of negativity in the air. That can be done away with…

This series win may have spoilt Christmas and New Year celebrations for a few. There are people who’ve only wanted to criticise this team, taking continuous jibes. Social media is fine, you get all sorts and none of that matters as long as you do what you have to do and do it right. But there are people who’ve simply wanted to pull this team down and mind you, some have not been very subtle about it either. That’s why I said what I said in the press conference after the Sydney Test. Before my first stint with the team, India were No. 5 or something (in Test rankings). The last three years they’ve been No. 1 and that’s going to be the case for some time now. Those who want to keep abusing and ranting can continue doing that. Sooner or later they’ll understand they don’t matter.



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