Christchurch: India head coach Ravi Shastri termed the Basin Reserve debacle as a timely ‘shake up’ for his team which will now go into the second Test with an ‘open mind’, fully aware of the challenges that New Zealand will pose over the next five days.
India lost the first Test by 10 wickets in just over three days and Shastri considers it as a blessing in disguise for a bunch of players who have gotten used to only winning games. “I always believe when you are on a run like we were, a shake-up like that (first Test) is good because it opens your mindset. When you are on the road winning all the time and you haven’t tasted defeat, you can have a closed or fixed mindset,” Shastri said on the eve of the second Test. “…there are opportunities to learn. You know what strategies NZ are employing and now you are prepared, what to expect and you have your plans on how to counter that. It’s a good lesson and I am sure the boys are up for the challenge,” the head coach seemed confident as ever.
The defeat, nonetheless, hurts and Shastri made it clear that Test cricket remains on top of his team’s agenda followed by T20s during next two years when ODIs are ‘least priority’, the reason being World Test Championship final in 2021 and the back to back ICC T20 World Cup.
“I wouldn’t judge ODI and Test cricket as they are totally different things. For us, the least priority is ODI cricket at the moment. Because of the schedule and what’s coming up in the next two years. Our focus — Test cricket is No.1 and T20 cricket,” said Shastri.
India is still on top of World Test Championship points table and Shastri feels that there shouldn’t be undue panic after just one defeat. “…we played eight games (3 vs South Africa, 2 vs West Indies and 2 vs Bangladesh and 1 vs New Zealand) and won seven. For one loss, there is absolutely no need to panic. And neither is anyone looking in that direction in this team,” he asserted. When asked why is it that teams struggle away from home, Shastri pointed it specifically to the format.
“It’s the red ball. The conditions of red and white balls are completely different…touring a country playing white ball cricket, the red ball is totally different especially in England and New Zealand, where conditions can be pretty much similar,” he analysed.
“It’s any team, it will take a while to acclimatise. We are here not to give any excuses. We were outplayed in that first Test.”
He didn’t hide his disappointment at Ravichandran Ashwin’s dip in batting form and hinted that Ravindra Jadeja could make a comeback in the playing XI. Asked how does one make a choice between Ashwin and Jadeja, the coach explained elaborately about the boxes that need to be ticked. “You will see how much of a role a spinner has, first of all. How many overs you think he is going to bowl in the game. Is there going to be something for him on day four or five? Will the second innings be that important? Do you need him more in the first innings of a game? Is his batting going to count? Is his fielding going to count? Is his overall fitness going to count? Those are areas you look into.”
He also explained the rationale behind Rishabh Pant being preferred over Wriddhiman Saha. “We went for Saha in India because there would be a lot of spin, and on turning tracks where bounce could be uneven, you need an experienced keeper and Saha is, to be honest, one of the best around. But when you come here, there is not much of spin bowling. Emphasis is on fast bowling and then the batting becomes a key factor. Plus the fact that he (Pant) is a left-hander, and an aggressive batsman lower down the order. That tilted the scales in his favour here.”