India head coach Ravi Shastri has said that Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma must travel to Australia in the next three or four days, if they are to join up with the squad in time for the Test series.
“He’s going through some tests at the NCA and they’re obviously going to decide how long he needs to take a break. But things could get difficult if he’s asked to wait for too long, then you’re talking of the quarantine again, which might make it really tough for even him to come just in time for the Test series,” Shastri said in an interview on ABC Sport’s Summer Grandstand.
The four-match Test series begins in Adelaide on December 17, with the Indian team competing in three ODIs and three T20Is prior to that. Rohit was initially left out of all three squads, but later added to the Test contingent.
When asked if the priority was always Test cricket for Rohit, Shastri replied: “Yes, he was never going to play the white-ball series, they were just looking to see how long he needed to rest, because you can’t afford to be resting for too long. If you need to play in the Test series or any red-ball cricket, you’ve got to be on the flight in the next three or four days. If you aren’t, then it’s going to be tough.”
India are scheduled to play two practice matches before that, the first starting on December 6 (overlapping with T20I series) and the day-night warm-up match scheduled for December 11. With a 14-day mandatory quarantine when the players land in Australia, if the players are to feature in the second warm-up match (ideally in preparation for the pink-ball Test), they would have to begin quarantine on the 26th or latest, 27th November.
Shastri later added that the situation was similar for pace spearhead Ishant Sharma, who is also recovering from injury in India.
The Mumbai Indians captain had led his side to the fifth Indian Premier League title earlier this month and has since returned to National Cricket Academy for rehab.
“Hamstring is feeling absolutely fine. Just started the process of getting it nice and strong. Before I play the longer format, I absolutely needed to be clear in mind that there is no stone that is left unturned, that’s probably the reason, I’m at the NCA,” Rohit had told PTI from Bengaluru recently.
Kohli’s decision the right one
Shastri backed Indian captain Virat Kohli’s decision to return to India after the first Test match in Adelaide, to be with wife Anushka Sharma for the birth of their first child.
“He’s very excited. He’s not someone who’ll miss Test match cricket just for anything. I think it’s the right decision he’s taking, because of the volume of cricket he’s played over the years and will play. These moments don’t come time and time again. He has the opportunity, he’s going back, and I think he’ll be happier for that,” Shastri said, adding that Kohli might have come back if the quarantine rules were not stringent.
“If you see where India have gone in the last five-six years, there’s no doubt in absolutely anyone’s mind that he’s the driving force and the man behind it (India’s success). So he obviously would be missed. But like I say, in adversity comes opportunity. There are a lot of young guys in the side and it’s an opportunity for them.”
Shastri said he hoped Prithvi Shaw grabs the chance if he gets it. The Mumbai opener had travelled to Australia last time around before an injury in a practice match ruled him out of the tour.
“He’s had his ups and downs. He’s recovered from injuries, he has played IPL. He’s young, talented. He would have played in Tests last time around but for the injury. His opportunity might come now, up to him to grab it with both hands,” Shastri added.
Shastri said things have been “so far, so good” in the bubble for the Indian contingent and the clincher for the tour to go ahead was knowing that they could start practice. “If it was hard quarantine, I would have found it hard for a full tour to go on. That’s for sure. Once they said it was soft quarantine and the boys could practice, that made things a lot easier,” he added.
The former Indian all-rounder said that most of these cricketers have been involved in the Indian Premier League means they are good to go in terms of match fitness ahead of the ODI series that starts on November 27.
Asked if there was any pressure on Kohli’s shoulders to deliver against Australia in their own backyard Shastri said, “Much less than what it was before. The monkey’s off his back. Off everyone’s back, once we beat Australia last time around. Till you beat a team in their own den, the pressure is always there. I don’t the pressure will be as last time around, but he’ll embrace it anyway.”
Shastri also said Australia have the advantage of playing significantly more pink ball cricket than India and it’s still a learning curve for his team, given the domestic cricket is not conducive that in India.