Shastri: Indian pace bowling in good hands

"We play horses for courses. If the batting order has to change in the interest of the team, we will change it. Pujara opened the innings in Sri Lanka and got a match-winning hundred. We saw that with Rahane batting at No. 3 and getting a match-winning hundred. Rohit has got runs batting at No. 5. This team will play in that fashion," says Ravi Shastri.

Indian team Director Ravi Shastri with Rohit Sharma. "He’s an explosive talent. These are the kind of people (with whom) you have to be patient. We know that when he gets it right, his bat will do the talking," says Shastri in praise of the batsman.   -  K. R. DEEPAK

Ravi Shastri rates Ishant Sharma very high. "He is more mature now; he understands his bowling and is the leader of the pack," he says of the fast bowler.   -  AP

With soft hands Wriddhiman Saha makes wicket-keeping look easy, says Shastri.   -  K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Ajinkya Rahane, according to Ravi Shastri, is the most improved player in the last 12 months.   -  PTI

Ravi Shastri is quite pleased with India’s pace bowling. In the second part of his interview with Sportstar, the Indian Team Director says India’s pace bowling is in good hands. He also talks about the Indian batsmen, making a pointed reference to the improvement Ajinkya Rahane has made in the last two years.

Question: There have been very few instances of India winning in Australia because of single-handed performances by the seamers – Kapil Dev 5 for 28 at the MCG in 1981 and Agarkar 6 for 41 in Adelaide in 2003-4. Are you hopeful of any one among the current crop (Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar) doing this consistently in Australia? The Indian pace bowling has been somewhat better in England…

Answer: Ishant took 10 wickets in the 2011 Bridgetown Test against the West Indies. He took seven wickets in a Test at Lord’s (2014). He has it in him. He is at his best at the moment. He is more mature; he understands his bowling and is the leader of the pack. If there is assistance from the pitch by way of seam and bounce, he will exploit it. He showed that in Sri Lanka.

 

Umesh Yadav is a rare talent. As we all saw in that spell (to AB de Villiers in the Delhi Test), he has the pace and can surprise batsmen from nowhere. He can swing the ball. He is also good with the reverse swing. And then we have Mohammad Shami; it will take time for him, but there is no doubt that, that man has got class. Then there is Varun Aaron who has the pace; with him, it’s just a question of developing control. These four bowlers can surprise overseas teams on tracks with pace and grass.

Bhuvneshwar (Kumar) has control; with him it’s just a case of getting the swing back. There is enough (talent) to suggest that Indian cricket is in good hands now with regard to the bowling department.

What did you or Kohli tell Ishant after he was banned for a Test following the series against Sri Lanka?

We did not tell him anything, except that the Match Referee has to go by the rulebook and that there are certain things he has to be careful about, but bowl with full aggression. We told him that there are a couple of things in the rulebook that he has to be careful about, like instigating a batsman or making a gesture at him. These are the things the Match Referees look at very closely because of the numerous television replays.

Rohit Sharma looks more like a Michael Bevan in the making – just doing well in the shorter formats of the game. He has played 16 Test matches for an average of 33.19. He has batted at No. 4 and 5, and also at No. 3…

He’s an explosive talent. I have said this time and again. These are the kind of people (with whom) you have to be patient. The team management, myself... we are prepared to be patient. We know that when he gets it right, his bat will do the talking.

We play horses for courses. If the batting order has to change in the interest of the team, we will change it. Cheteshwar Pujara opened the innings in Sri Lanka and got a match-winning hundred. We saw that with Rahane (Ajinkya) batting at No. 3 and getting a match-winning hundred. Rohit has got runs batting at No. 5. This team will play in that fashion.

Dhawan, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Rohit... is this the batting line-up India have to show faith in for the next two years at least in Test cricket?

No question about it. They are all young and I think their best cricket is yet to come. If they work hard, I see no reason why they cannot be together, at least 90 per cent of them.

Rahane has surprised us all in the last two years…

He’s worked hard at his game in the last two years. He’s arguably the most improved player in the last 12 months. This is a result of his work ethics and ability to learn quickly. One could see the difference the way he played in the last Test against South Africa in Delhi. There was a sense of surety in defence and attack in the two hundreds he made; it was a hallmark of his innings.

Questions were asked about Shikhar Dhawan. Was it fair?

Shikhar is an impact player. We want him to play the way he does because if he comes off, he will win you a match. It’s easy to pass judgment on anybody. He got a big century (173) in Bangladesh; he got a hundred (134) with a broken hand in Sri Lanka. Even in this series (against South Africa), he may have got just 20s and 30s, but some of those innings were very important for the time he spent at the crease.

With him there is one able and sound partner. Murali Vijay does not get the credit he deserves. He is as good an opening batsman as anybody in the world at the moment, if not the best, when it comes to batting in all conditions. If an opening batsman has to score runs in any part of the world, knowing when to leave the ball is important, and also playing the short ball well. Vijay does both well.

Wriddhiman Saha too seems to be settling down nicely in the team…

His ’keeping was fabulous in the series against South Africa and his footwork and glove-work on a turning track was magnificent. With soft hands he makes wicket-keeping look easy. He’s gritty little cricketer and a great team man. There is room for improvement in his batting as well.

How do you manage two captains – M. S. Dhoni and Virat Kohli?

Each one understands his role, both (MSD and Virat) have been successful and are experienced. A lot of things will be pretty much the same because the players in the unit are again pretty much the same. It’s a big advantage for the Indian team when it comes to playing across the three formats, not too much tinkering to be done.

Has the BCCI given everything the team has asked for?

Absolutely. Even the selectors have done an outstanding job; they have been on the same wavelength as the team. The BCCI has been very supportive; at times, we carried 16 and 17 players. In such a situation, a team cannot complain. You don’t look around to give excuses. If the support was not there, then there could have been irritability, and excuses given. When we lost the first Test in Sri Lanka, we had injured players and we needed reinforcements. Stuart Binny came in. If you don’t get all support, one would see cracks showing up somewhere.