Shastri: ‘We had our moments as No 1 team’

India head coach Ravi Shastri also believes arriving 10 days earlier in South Africa could have made a difference, but says that’s no excuse for the lackluster show.

Shastri (left) believes the team had chances in both the Tests but the boys didn't make the most of it.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

The Indian team has been under fire in the series and coach Ravi Shastri was typically combative with his responses during an interaction with the media here on Monday.

He said India would need to change the way it prepares for important overseas tours. “I am sure henceforth, in the future, when itineraries are made preparation will be taken into account, there is absolutely no doubt about that. You have to get there a couple of weeks earlier and prepare.”

Asked about the controversies regarding the selection of the eleven in this series, he observed, “If Ajinkya (Rahane) had played first, and not done well, you would have asked me the same question, why Rohit [Sharma] hasn’t played. Rohit played, he didn’t do well, you are asking me why Ajinkya didn’t play. The same thing  with pacemen.”

Queried about India making too many changes in its Test eleven, Shastri responded, “Chopping and changing overseas is easier. In India, you don’t need to chop and change because you know what the conditions are. Overseas, you go on current form and you go on conditions and you see which player can adapt to certain conditions quicker than the other.”

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He added, “What are the overhead conditions for which bowler to play as opposed to what kind of track you will get, where you need a bowler with bounce or you need a bowler with swing. So that’s where the chopping and changing starts.”

On India’s performance in the first two Tests, Shastri said, “We did have our moments in both Test matches and we looked like the No. 1 team when we bowled out South Africa for 130 odd at Newlands or when we closed the gap at Centurion thanks to Virat’s brilliant innings and had them two-down with just around 30 runs ahead. Not many teams look half that when they come to India. We fought back, did well, but missed some important moments.”

Shastri said the manner the Indian pacemen had fired in the series has been the biggest positive for him. “I would rather focus on the 20 wickets we have taken. That gave us a chance to win in both Test matches. Yes, our top order, if we can fire, it will be a good Test match here.”

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Dwelling on Chesteshwar Pujara’s run-outs in both innings of the second Test, Shastri said, “It hurts a lot. As it is the conditions are very tough, and on top of that if someone gets run out then you feel bad. They are schoolboy errors and have to be rectified. In tough conditions like these where there is not much difference between the two teams, you cannot afford to give away wickets like that. Boys have been told that.”

Talking about the grass on the Wanderers pitch, Shastri noted, “Well there is grass on the track and you expect that overseas. We are not here to moan about the tracks because the pitch is the same for both sides at the start of the game. The good thing though is people won’t crib and moan when matches in India get over in two and a half days. We are not here to complain. When you take 20 wickets you have a chance to win. Our batsmen need to fight it out in these conditions.”

About India asking the curator to roll the practice pitches on Monday, Shastri said, "They were damp. I thought they might have watered it last night, it was a little spongy and two-paced so by rolling it, we wanted it to be a little harder."