Their decision of not playing enough warm-up games ahead of the England tour questioned, India’s head coach Ravi Shastri now says they have requested the BCCI to arrange for a couple of practice matches before the Austrtalia tour kicks off later this year.
Ahead of the five-Test series, which it lost 1-4 to England, India played just one warm-up game. Even the lone four-day practice match against county side Essex was reduced to three days amid high drama over the condition of the pitch and the outfield, both of which apparently left the visitors unhappy.
On Thursday, Shastri said he was not averse to the idea of playing practice games.
“Absolutely not. Why would we be? You can only see the results (in the England Tests). Every time after the second Test we have improved. You can still get better. But why can’t we be in that position in the first Test match?” he was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
Shastri, though, was doubtful if practice games for the tour Down Under could be arranged due to a crammed schedule.
“If you have two or three games against weaker sides we don’t mind because it is a game. But when you have a schedule as tight as this and when you have a memorandum of understanding that has already been formulated, with a choc-a-bloc calendar, there is very little you can do. Now, we have requested for a couple of games in Australia before the Test series. But is there space (to play those matches)? That is the question,” he wondered.
India captain Virat Kohli had defended their decision of not playing enough warm-up games, saying such matches weren’t always useful as oppositions were often of poor quality and pitches not similar to to the ones prepared for the Test matches.
India’s Australia tour will start with a three-match T20I series, beginning November 21.
“Ideally we would want two three- or four-day games before a Test series. But do you have the time? For example, we have a T20 series in Australia preceding the Test series. There is a 10-day gap before the first Test. These are things that have been approved earlier. It is not in our control.
Curran the difference
Shastri further said that they didn’t lose the Test series to a collective effort from England but to all-rounder Sam Curran’s individual brilliance which became the difference at crucial junctures.
“I would not say (we) failed badly. But we tried. We must give credit where it is due. Virat and me were asked to pick the Man of the Series (for England) and we both picked Sam Curran. Look where Curran has scored, and, that is where he hurt us. More than England, it was Curran who hurt us,” Shastri said.
He then pointed out the phases during Test matches when the talented all-rounder took the game away from India.
n the first Test, England were 87 for 7 (in the second innings) at Edgbaston, he (Curran) got the runs. In the fourth Test, they were 86 for 6 (first innings) in Southampton, he got the runs. We were 50 for 0 (first innings) at Edgbaston, he got the wickets. So at crucial stages in this series, he chipped in with runs and wickets. That was the difference between the two sides,” Shastri explained.
While the complex ICC Test ranking system helped India regain their pole position, Shastri maintained that he will take heart from the fact that the side put up a good show.
“We are still the No 1 team in the world. And England know how well we fought. Their media knows how well we fought. Our fans know how well we fought. Their public knows how well we fought. We know inside how well we fought,” he added.
Asked if he was distracted by the criticism, Shastri said: “Absolutely not. (I would be the) last one to press the panic button when I see so many positives. I head back home with a very positive state of mind. I know exactly what we do. I know exactly and clearly where the team is heading - it is heading in the right direction.”
There had been a lot of criticism of team’s performance but Shastri remained unperturbed.
“People are entitled to their opinions. As long as we know the job we are doing and we are honest to our jobs, as long as support staff we are helping players channelise their energies in the right direction, we are not worried about what critics say,” Shastri said.
“We are not worried about what people will say and what they will do. We know what this team has done in the last three to four years. In the last four years this team has won nine Tests overseas,” he said.
The former all-rounder feels that India is one team that has been travelling well but don’t have results to show.
“Tell me one team in the world at the moment that goes out and competes all the time. We are the one team. It is just that we need results coming in our favour more often on the winning side.”