Shastri: ‘In this unit, there is no negative bone’

Ravi Shastri, never the one to take a backward step, was his usual confident self at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

Ravi Shastri keeps an eye on the players as they train in Nottingham on Thursday.   -  AP

India may be 2-0 down in the series and facing a barrage of criticism back home but morale in the camp does not appear to have suffered. Ravi Shastri, never the one to take a backward step, was his usual confident self at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

His message to the players was to believe in themselves, India's head coach said. “I told them: ‘You have been in this position couple of times before and you have responded. There is no reason why [you cannot do it again.]’ One thing's for sure: in this unit, there is no negative bone. In spite of what happened in the last Test match -- OK, conditions favoured England but that is no excuse whatsoever -- we are here without a negative bone, wanting to play to win, as simple as that."

India's batsmen have had a rough time in the series so far, with none of the top six -- with the exception of Virat Kohli – scoring more than 30 in the first two Tests. R. Ashwin was the team's top-scorer in both innings at Lord's. It is a worrying situation. “Conditions have been tough as you have seen right through this series,” Shastri said.

“But that’s where character comes into play and discipline comes into play, the resolve to know where your off stump is, leave a lot of balls, be prepared to look ugly and dirty and show some grit.”

The head coach was asked about Ajinkya Rahane, once India's best batsman in tough overseas conditions but now struggling for form. “I don’t think it's fair to single out any one player,” he said.

“Batsmen from both teams have struggled. When the occasion demands, it’s a case of mental resolve, how you put mind over matter. Mental discipline will be the key as far as batsmen are concerned going forward in this Test match. He (Rahane) is one of our pillars and he will remain one of our pillars.”

Team selection was a touchy subject for Shastri and Kohli on the South Africa tour, with the pair not taking kindly to any criticism. But the captain admitted after the Lord's Test that choosing Kuldeep Yadav in place of Umesh Yadav was a mistake. And Shastri agreed with him.

“In hindsight, it was an error,” he said. “We should have gone, seeing the conditions, with an extra seamer. It might have helped. Then again, you didn’t know how much it would rain, whether a match could go into the final day where just in case spinner is needed and the ball starts to turn, would we have needed him. But in hindsight the way things panned out, the amount it rained, the time we lost, a seamer could have been a better option.”

Shastri stated that he was looking forward to seeing Ben Stokes restored to England's line-up. "He is a terrific cricketer. We would like to play against top cricketers. If he is cleared by the courts, what's the reason for him not to play? If I was in England’s position I would have wanted him to play," he said.

When asked if India would attempt to provoke Stokes, who is reputed to have a short fuse, the 56-year-old delivered a typically fierce response. “This team is not worried about who winds whom up, it will give you back as good as it gets," he said. "It doesn’t matter if the team is England, Australia or South Africa. We keep it very simple: if it is a vocabulary I understand, I will give it back in that vocabulary, otherwise in the vocabulary I know best.”