INDIA TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA, 2018
Cricbuzz Staff • Last updated on Sat, 30 Dec, 2017, 08:21 PM
India’s head coach Ravi Shastri believes that the team is equipped for the overseas challenges. © AFP
As India ready themselves for the arduous South African challenge which begins with a three-Test series from January 5, India captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri addressed the media about their preparations going into the series, the tough conditions, the opposition’s strengths and more.
On the cancellation of the warm-up match..
Kohli: If you look at the wicket which we’re playing on right now, it’s not even 15 percent of what we’re going to get in the game. We understand that. There’s no point wasting two days (with) guys going and scoring quick fifties and coming out. We rather have them do two sessions like today, get into the Test match zone, test ourselves. We can try and prepare the wickets the way we want to. In a two-day game there’s no room for changing the wicket at different times of the day. Here, we have the freedom to put more water on the wicket, roll it, make it harder and come tomorrow’s practice session then we have conditions that we want. You’re never sure of whether you’re going to get quality practice games or not. So we would rather have practice sessions that are in our control, the way we want to run them. It doesn’t matter if you play three practice games and you’re not in the right frame of mind. It doesn’t matter, starting (the first Test) on fifth of January, whether you’ve played two practice games or three. If you’re in a good head-space and have good practice sessions, I think you’re good enough as well.
On the conditions to expect during the Test series..
Kohli: We come to South Africa knowing that the wickets are going to be different from back home. Even the last time when we’ve played there was talk about we getting bounced out and we’re going to struggle against the short ball. But I think our batsmen stood up really nicely. If you remember, clearly on Day 1 of the Jo’burg Test we put up a great fight, we handled their bowlers pretty well and we made them work hard. We almost won that Test, it ended up being a draw. So, we are prepared as to what we’re going to get here and we’re not under any delusions as to what we’re going to be presented with, come fifth of January.
On India’s record in South Africa..
Kohli: Our best result has been a drawn series, if I remember, in 2010-11. I feel the kind of bowling attack we have now and the kind of balance we have in the side, we definitely believe that we can win here. There’s no two ways about it. If we wouldn’t have that mindset then there’s no point in getting onto that flight as well. We have come here wanting to express ourselves, believing in our abilities, knowing that we have the right balance to win Test matches in any conditions that we play in. This one again is an opportunity for us to play good cricket. We’re not thinking about whether we’re playing in South Africa or any other country. For us it’s about winning sessions, being in the present, executing our skills well, not looking at the history as to what’s happened in the particular country where we play at. You might have a great record in a country, but as I said, if you’re not well prepared it doesn’t matter, you’re going to end up losing. I think international cricket is all about staying in the present and trying to do the things better than the opposition at all times during any of the games that you play.
On batting preparations in South African conditions..
Kohli: The most important thing is to not get surprised by the pace and bounce. We have convinced ourselves that it is going to be much quicker and much bouncier than back home and you might get balls that surprise you every now and then. So the most important thing is to just put it in the past, put it behind you and focus on the next ball. That’s something we did the last time as well. You can’t afford to think there’s too much pace and bounce. You rather take it on, believe in your abilities, take it head on, that’s key to playing in conditions that are different from your home.
On the upcoming overseas challenges and if it could impact their ranking..
Shastri: Well, all I’ll say is this team is up for the challenge. If you had asked me four years ago whether it (rankings) was up for the challenge, I would have said no. But this team has gained in experience and you have bench strength in the fast-bowling department which is the key in taking 20 wickets at the places you’ve mentioned. And the beauty about this team is it doesn’t matter which opposition it is. We respect all oppositions, we look at the pitch and adapt to those conditions. It doesn’t matter who the opposition is.
Kohli: We’ve been asked this many times and if someone can give me in writing, then you can just turn up not having prepared at all, not having practised in your home conditions at all. Not being disciplined, not being focused about game, if you can end up winning every game that you play or every series that you play..it’s about respecting the sport. The schedule was in a way that we ended up playing a lot of series at home.
But we won away from home in Sri Lanka twice. Especially the tour to Australia that we had, is the one that laid a great foundation for this team. We were the only side that scored 450-plus in every game that we’ve played, ever, in Australia, no other team had done that before. I think that gave us a lot of confidence and, as Ravi just mentioned, we are looking forward to this period going away from home because we honestly feel we have the skill-sets to do well in any place in the world. And now is the opportunity, because of the average age of the group, and the amount of cricket we’re going to play in the future as well. We’re looking forward to this phase as the time we’ll always remember for the rest of our lives. We’re not putting pressure on ourselves that we’ll have to win in every country that we play in. We want to enjoy playing together and that’s been the highlight of this team. The team spirit has been the standout feature. Who’s watched the team play as well, on TV, has mentioned that particular point, that the team looks like it’s a unit and we play with a great team spirit. That’s what we’re looking forward to do here as well.
Shastri: Just to put the question back to you, tell me one team in world cricket that travels well, over the last two years?
Not too many responses..
Shastri: That answers your question. So we have that opportunity, we sense it and we’ve treated it as a challenge.
On the team’s adaptability..
Shastri: Like we’ve mentioned, every game for us is a home game. Even this is a home game at Newlands. You see the pitch and you adapt, no excuses, no complaints. Two teams have to play on that surface. Tomorrow you go to England, it might be seaming all over the place. You come to India, it might be turning. If you want to be rated as a side, you adapt to those conditions. It’s as simple as that. Leave all the other crap aside, just get out there and try and compete in those conditions whatever is on offer.
On AB de Villiers vs Virat Kohli..
Kohli: I don’t know, it’s not like only two guys are playing in this series. AB is a great friend of mine, I respect the way he plays the game and I’ve always respected him as a person as well. But when you’re playing against each other, not that we cross the line with each other – we’re just not like that with each other, we can’t – it’s just about wanting to get AB out and I’m sure the opposition would want the same when I play or [Ajinkya] Rahane plays or [Cheteshwar] Pujara plays as well.
I don’t think there’s any difference in terms of the mindset of in any of the batsmen in the side. Everyone wants to be the standout player in the series and make contributions towards the team winning the series. Unless you have that as a group, you don’t have many chances of winning the series. Some people might have brilliant individual performances but then you’ll always be fine with one or two people doing well. But right now, the kind of hunger we have in the group, everyone wants an opportunity and I think that’s a very exciting thing. I can’t speak for the opposition, because AB hasn’t played much Test cricket since he played against us, and he’s coming back after a while. But look, setting apart all the despise created on the outside regarding the series, I think the team that plays well together for a longer period of time has better chances of winning the series.
On playing experience in South Africa..
Kohli: As you rightly mentioned, lot of our players have played here before. But what he [Ravi Shastri] mentioned was the number of games that we had played back then, compared to now, and where we stand in understanding our own games, is something that has come a long way in the last four years. From a personal point of view, I know my game much better. I’ve had many highs and lows after that (the last series in South Africa). But right now the team is very comfortable with where we stand, individually as our personal skill-sets, plus as a team – we know exactly what we need to do if we need to bounce back from a certain situation, how we need to do it, or if we want to create chances, how we need to create them. I think there is a sense of intelligence and awareness that has crept in in the last four years and that provides the excitement that we’re talking about. We know exactly what we need to do come game time on January 5. It’s not like we’re going to go out there and explore.. let’s see what happens. We’re not in that frame of mind. We know how to win Test matches now and that’s very good habit and knowledge to have, and we’re just preparing the best to execute those skill-sets again.
On the opposition’s strengths..
Shastri: They are obviously a good, solid, all-round side. In fact, I’ve mentioned last two years no team has travelled well. India has started doing well. If you look before that, it’s always been South Africa, ahead of any team. It’s a team that was in transition but you’ve always had good bench strength. That’s the key for South Africa’s success, you’ve always had bench strength in the bowling department and the batting department. The thing now though, this will be a good contest. Because a lot of our boys want job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is when you get outside (overseas) and score runs for our batters. Same with our bowlers, they want to take wicket overseas. So there’s a challenge and I can sense it there that they want that Test match to start as quickly as possible.
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