India coach Ravi Shastri, on Sunday, cautioned against underestimating a struggling Australian side at home.
Despite Australia's form nosediving since the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March — which resulted in bans for Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft — Shastri doesn't believe the host has lost its aura.
“I don't think so,” he said. “I always believe no team is weak at home.
“We might have three or four players not playing when a team comes to India but God forbid if anyone says it is a weak Indian team because you will be surprised.”
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'Play hard but fair'
Shastri didn't want to be drawn on Australia's new “friendlier” approach to playing cricket under Justin Langer, which has seen it tone down the confrontational style that brought them so much success.
But he has instructed his team to play hard but fair. “We will be taking no prisoners, but are focusing on our game rather than what is happening outside,” he said.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, who has fed off the Australian “in-your-face” attitude in recent years, urged it last week not to totally abandon this aspect of its game.
His Indian counterpart Virat Kohli is another cricketer who has thrived previously on the combative rivalry.
Shastri did not believe Australia's new, polite approach would affect his skipper. “He won't take his foot off the gas that is for sure,” he warned.
“He loves coming to Australia, he's passionate about his game and the pitches here suit his style of play.”
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While India has maintained recent supremacy at home with a thrashing of the West Indies in Tests (2-0), ODIs (3-1) and T20s (3-0), it has not been as dominant away.
It lost 2-1 in Tests to South Africa and was then outplayed in England 4-1.
“It's about seizing the moment. If you look at those Test matches (overseas), the scoreline doesn't really tell you the whole story,” said Shastri.
“There were some very tight Test matches and we lost some big moments badly which cost us the series.
“It could have been just an hour in a session over four days which made all the difference — you have to learn from that.”
Shastri rued all-rounder Hardik Pandya's absence, who is recovering from a back injury sustained during the Asia Cup.
“One player we will miss is Hardik Pandya, who has had an injury. He gave us that balance as a bowler as well as batsman, which allowed us to play that extra bowler. Even now we have got to think twice. Hopefully, he will get fit soon and if fast bowlers do well, we might not miss him then,” the former all-rounder said.
India plays four Tests and three one-day internationals from early December, with three Twenty20s before that, starting in Brisbane on Wednesday.
With inputs from PTI
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