Mumbai: Virat Kohli-led Team India coach Ravi Shastri has launched a sensational attack on the critics of the Indian cricket team following his arrival from South Africa. While India lost the Test series 1-2, the team thumped South Africa 5-1 in ODIs and then clinched the three-match T20 series 2-1 to make the final scoreline 8-4.
While the Faf du Plessis-led Proteas won the first two Tests in Cape Town and Centurion, India managed to beat the homeside on what ICC termed as “poor” Johannesburg, which tested the batsmen with uneven bounce.
Shastri though felt that people in India are happy when the team loses.
“We always believed we could win. Very few people saw it, but we could have won both those games. Sometimes you feel in your country, people are happy when you lose. We pulled out a calculation where we looked at sessions and we were just two sessions behind and those cost us two Test matches. I said, take the positives out of that and go into the next Test match to win – not to draw – to win! Not many teams would have batted first on that (Johannesburg) track. It was a nasty one,” said Shastri in an interview to Mid-Day.
While South Africa were almost a full strength side in Test series, they lost the services of Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock during the major part of the ODI and T20 series.
When asked, whether India were helped by a little weakened South African unit, Shastri hit back, saying, “This is the biggest problem with our critics. When you win, the other team is not playing well. When you win in Sri Lanka, they are a weak team. When you play South Africa, they are not at their best. Remember, a team is only as good as you allow it to be. It's as simple as that. No one says the Indian team were not at their best when we lose. No Indian says that. When we lose, we lose. Ah, but when another team lose, they were not at their best. I can't fathom and I don't have an answer for that. By the way, we are not playing players, we are playing a country so I don't care what is on offer. I am playing against South Africa. Who plays for South Africa is not my problem.”
While Indian batting was a letdown in the first two Tests, barring the exception of Hardik Pandya’s 93 in the first Test and Virat Kohli’s gritty 153 in the second, Indian bowlers were on a roll as they scalped all 60 South African wickets across three Tests. Shastri, when asked, whether the other countries will have this aspect at the back of their mind when they prepare pitches from hereon while facing India, said, “I wouldn't say that. We don't complain about pitches. We go and play and the message is very clear — when you come to my country, never question the pitches because I will say, 'take a fu****g walk.' We don't give excuses; we play on what we are offered. That's how my boys play. And it's a ground rule – no complaints, no excuses... it's the same pitch for both teams.”
Shastri also about how challenging tour it was for him as a coach.
“Massive. I think the penny will drop for the boys in a week's time. They don't know what they have achieved. Often, when you play with that mindset and that level of intensity for two months, the penny drops much later,” said Shastri.
Shastri, meanwhile, made it clear that he will be lying if he said there were no regrets from the South Africa tour.
I'll be lying if I say there are no regrets. For me, everyday is a learning curve. When you lose, you learn too. What I liked was that the boys stood up and fought. They didn't allow their shoulders to drop. In fact, they fought harder.
They reserved the biggest punch for the last. Two zip down and to throw that knockout punch on South Africa in Johannesburg was tremendous. They never recovered from that. I was like Muhammad Ali v George Foreman in 1974 and he fu****g knocked him out," said Shastri, who took over from Anil Kumble as Indian cricket team coach.
"I think it's awesome. I've been to South Africa on every India tour save one (in 1996-97). I went there as a player 25 years ago on the first one and I even did commentary for the 2001-02 Australia v South Africa series. In fact, I've been more to South Africa than any other nation, so I know how difficult South Africa is," added Shastri.
"What I am very proud about is that the boys fought on each of the 21 days of cricket there which is unreal for an Indian team on any tour for that matter. Every day they had a chance. Out of 12 matches, we won eight. What can one say? You've just got to give the boys credit," Shastri continued.