India’s head coach Ravi Shastri has backed the current side to be victorious in the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, and be competitive in the upcoming tours of South Africa and England.
“This team has been together for a two years now,” Shastri said ahead of the second Test in Colombo. “They are much more experienced now. They have already done things which a lot of Indian teams and some big names could not achieve, like winning a series here (Sri Lanka). A lot of big players with 20 years of experience have not done,” he added.
“So when one says South Africa and England coming up, I see it as an opportunity. This team can do things that probably no Indian team has done.”
The former team manager also praised skipper Virat Kohli, stating that the 28-year-old can go on to become one of the best captains in the world.
“He is still young. I can see a big difference in him since his first Test as captain and now. I was there when he led the team in Adelaide. You can see it in the body language. He will continue to mature. For his age he has done a lot. But, there are signs that he can be up there with the best.”
Speaking about his return to the dressing room after a break, Shastri said the team responded as if he had never left.
“For me nothing had changed when I walked in as I had left it,” he said. “The boys were fantastic in the last Test, there are still areas to improve. We have already discussed them. What we want from the team is consistency.”
“My job is to be in-charge of entire support staff and ensure the boys are in some great mental space to go out and express themselves with nothing else on their minds but to play go out and play a brand of cricket that’s fearless, positive and what we have seen them do over these past few years,” Shastri said.
Having been the manager, Team director before, Shastri pointed out that there’s not much difference between his previous and present role.
“I have been manager, Team director and now I am coach. It’s the same role. There’s nothing that I have to change. The fact that I have watched the sport for a long time, without a break helps. You know what’s contemporary. I don’t think this level coaching is not needed at this level its only about fine-tuning. It’s about getting the blokes in good mental space.
“The amount of cricket that’s played, you can fall into a bad habit. That’s where the experience of having played the game and watched it for so long comes in handy,” he added.
On KL Rahul’s fitness and the possibility of him returning for the Colombo Test, Shastri said they are cautious not to rush the opener into the playing XI.
“Rahul is (doing) good. We are watching him closely. He went through some tough times and he was in the hospital for 2-3 days. Obviously, it has taken a lot out of him. So we have to be very careful how we treat him, we are watching him very closely and he is getting better by the day,” Shastri said.
Like skipper Kohli, Shastri also spoke about the need for having good bench strength, with Abhinav Mukund producing a strong performance of 81 in the second innings of the first Test.
“When I have good bench strength, it is very good. When there is competition for places even better because that’s healthy competition and a good headache to have. Where you know if someone is injured someone else is ready and that is across all formats. It is very good but ideally you want your core team to be fit and on the park as often as possible,” said Shastri.