Shastri: ‘We wanted to meet fire with fire’

India head coach Ravi Shastri says cricketers need to earn their stripes in Test cricket and there are no free lunches, praises bowlers for claiming 60 wickets in the series.

South Africa opener Dean Elgar took a blow from Jasprit Bumrah but remained unbeaten, though for a losing cause.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Confidence is an attribute that Ravi Shastri has in plenty. The India coach was typically combative during a conversation with Sportstar after the conclusion of the Test series here. Excerpts:

What has been the biggest positive for you from the series?

The fact that we took 60 wickets in three Tests away from the sub-continent. Our bowlers were brilliant. Bowling coach B. Arun has done a fabulous job, he has been working real hard. The pacers complemented each other. Teams will be wary of preparing green pitches against us. If they do that, we have the firepower to hit back.

Why did India go into the third Test with five seamers including a pace-bowling all-rounder? Did you miss a spinner when Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla had that long partnership on day four?

We wanted to meet fire with fire. We look at the course and pick the horses, that’s the motto of our selection. And our pacemen delivered. No, we did not miss a spinner. Had we done so, we would have got Murali Vijay to bowl a few overs of off-spin.

What was the logic behind selecting Jasprit Bumrah in the longer format? He eventually had a good debut series.

We knew the kind of bowler we wanted. He had some qualities we were looking for. Bumrah has the X-factor.

Looking back, don’t you feel we should have won the series here?

Had we played some important moments better in the first two Tests, the result of the series would have been different. We made some mistakes, but this is a still a young team and will learn. But we do not want to look back and moan. That’s not the nature of this side. After our win at the Wanderers we will go into the series against England with a lot of confidence. Of course, how we prepare and how much time we have to prepare for the series will be crucial.

What was the mood in the Indian camp when Elgar and Amla batted deep into day four?

We knew it was a question of one wicket. By late afternoon, the pitch started playing up again and the pacemen did their job. We had belief and we were clinical.

What are your impressions on Virat Kohli’s captaincy? You share a wonderful chemistry with him?

Look at the way he leads his boys on the field, his aggression, his body language, it rubs off on his men. He’s been outstanding. The responsibility has not affected his batting, it brings the best out of him.

But then Kohli has a tendency to get involved in temperamental flare-ups on and off the field…

Give him time, he will mature with time, he will calm down. When I was young, nobody told me to change myself from the way I was. Kohli has got his heart in the right place and he plays with a lot of pride.

Kohli had a compelling series with the bat in difficult conditions. Where would you place him among contemporary batsman in world cricket and in the list of all-time great Indian batsmen?

He’s the best in the world at the moment and can be compared with any Indian batsman I have seen or played with, from different eras and across formats. Kohli has got everything you need as a batsman.

You got a Test hundred, enduring pain, on a quick Barbados pitch against the West Indian fast bowlers back in the day. How gutsy was the performance of the Indian batsmen on day three at the Wanderers?

Our batsmen fought it out, took blows on the body. You have to earn your stripes in Test cricket. Nothing comes easy and there are no free lunches. We showed character. We showed guts. That’s what I like to see from my team.

The green pitches at Newlands and Wanderers were pretty spicy too…

We don’t want to crib about the pitches. We want to take it in our stride. But after this, we don’t want any team to come to India and complain that we are making pitches that suit us.

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