India coach Ravi Shastri was at his verbal best as he hailed Virat Kohli & Co and attacked critics who have questioned the tactics, saying negative comments coming from miles away were blown away by the wind like, what else, but a “tracer bullet”.
Moments after India’s first Test series triumph in Australia, Shastri hit back at the critics, including Sunil Gavaskar, who had questioned selections and the training regimen of the team.
The ecstatic coach was also superfluous in his praise for the team, saying this was a unit that would jump off a cliff to win. Special commendation was reserved for captain Kohli, who the coach said was the most passionate Test cricketer today.
As expected, the former commentator gave us some quotable quotes. Here’s what he had to say after the match:
On the Indian cricket team’s journey
It’s 12 months, this tour didn’t start in Australia, this tour started 12 months ago in South Africa where we said there is a certain brand of cricket that we are going to play, we are going to experiment with combinations, find out which suits the team the best and take it forward from there. So we learned a heck of a lot in South Africa, we learned a lot in England, we made mistakes, which we didn’t make in this series. We learned from those mistakes and fired at home, properly. The most satisfying part was that it was a team that was working towards this goal over the last 12 months.
I’ll tell you how satisfying it was for me – World Cup 83, World Championship 85, this is as big... or even bigger because this is the truest format of the game that is Test cricket, which is meant to be the toughest.
On Kohli, the ‘passionate’ captain
Past is history, future is a mystery. We have won today after 71 years, I’d like to live in the present and salute my captain for being the captain of the team that beat Australia for the first time in Australia.
Very satisfying... he started his journey four-five years ago in Australia and he has been around the globe captaining the side. I don’t think anyone plays Test cricket with more passion than Kohl does, at least I don’t see any international captain coming close to him on the field when it comes to showing the passion that is needed to play. He is very expressive which is different from other personalities, other captains could have different personalities but Virat is someone in your face and it rubs off on all the youngsters who are watching the game in India, his entire team, who want to emulate him and to believe that they can be someone like him who can go out there and strive for excellence. When an individual puts his neck on the line as captain, then the others follow and you have seen that transition happen over the last two-three years where the guys in the team have become more and more confident about their own ability, the ability of the team as well and it has made all the difference.
On the critics of team India
I said in Melbourne, I mentioned that people taking potshots and firing blanks and I was not joking there because I knew how hard this team had worked. When you fire from there, by the time the blank crosses the Southern Hemisphere, it is blown away with the wind like a tracer bullet. But lead, with something in it, can be pretty serious and that it what we fired right through the series against Australia. We were committed and it jolly well made a bloody difference, at the end of it all.
This is not a team of Gods or demigods or seniors or juniors, this is an Indian cricket team that will jump over a cliff to win a game for the country. That is the determination, the ruthlessness, the mindset with which this team went to play in this series and hats off to them to show that courage. Today I can say I am proud of my boys, I can also tell them one thing which Virat touched in the presentation, that this team now has an identity, to look at any other Indian team from the past, in the eye, and say ‘we play proper Test cricket. You did, but we did too, without being intimidated.’
On Player of the Series Pujara
A word on Pujara, he has been outstanding. He can bat, and bat, and bat. He made one mistake, that was at the presentation. We told him you should have padded up and gone and taken the trophy. They would have given it to you without mentioning your name once they saw you padded up.
On Kuldeep Yadav playing more regularly
Why abroad? Test cricket, period. If he can deliver like that, if he can improve, then there could be a permanent place for him for all you know. That is what we have done with this team. You mentioned Bumrah, you see Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Mayank Agarwal, Kuldeep Yadav, these are guys who got opportunities this year, there is Prithvi Shaw who got an opportunity, unfortunately, he was injured. But as many as six players who have broken into the ranks, you don’t see that many coming through in a year in an established team that is ranked No 1. We have given the opportunities, it is up to the lads to grab it.
On whether Australian batsmen will learn from their mistakes as India did
I think they will be up to the challenge. What we learned is to seize the important moments. For example, in the first Test we were 40/4 or 80/5, from there on to reach 250, you knew deep down that it could have a huge impact on this series. Similarly, taking wickets in Melbourne, Bumrah going through that spell when he was hot, taking six wickets on the trot. Those are the kind of sessions that could be crucial. In England, we lost it because the lower order often got runs against us when we could have bowled out England much more cheaply we didn’t do it. Here, at least we managed to do that so that can be a big difference. In fact, our lower order, when least expected, got runs so that made a difference with the opposition. I think Australia has to be patient because in England that Duke ball will curve around corners, so you have to be patient, trust your technique, trust that off stump. It is about belief because you have got the attack; if anyone tells me that this Australian attack is not quite there, put your pads on and go and play there, then you’ll find out.
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