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Some people are trying to pull team down: Ravi Shastri
From the Webdesk, 10/01/2019, New Delhi

In an exclusive chat, Team India head coach Ravi Shastri, who spoke to TOI from Sydney, talks about the historic series win in Australia, what has gone into making this bunch a top-notch Test side and how does the think-tank plans to manage players in the coming months in view of the IPL and the World Cup.


A great win, but bigger than 1983? Did you really mean it that way?

This is the purest form of cricket. A 71-year-old barrier has been broken and accolades flowing from all over the world - from the likes of Imran Khan or Viv Richards - say it all. Those who've played cricket in Australia know what it takes to win here. They're as tough as an opposition can get and nothing comes easy here. Of course, the 1983 World Cup glory is right up there and so was 1985. But I do stand by what I said -- this is pure joy, this is real cricket. This is a young team, it is their moment and they should have a good sense of the kind of history they've made here. In fact, they do.
Talking about India's series win, Mitchell Johnson said it's "pure gold"...

This series is the only thing Australia is talking about right now. Mitch knows very well the value of a series win here (in Australia). And so do the others who're gushing over this Indian team. They've been a fantastic unit, have worked very hard for this and look how beautifully things have fallen in place.

So, a year ends on a promising note and the next begins on a high like never before. Now, World Cup beckons...

Yes, that's the only thing on our minds now -- the World Cup. Mentally, we're already switching from red (ball) to white. Players who've been playing continuous cricket have been given a break. Bumrah, for instance. He'll have a good rest. At the same time, we'll use these matches (ODIs coming up in Oz and NZ) to fine-tune things. We're not bothered about winning or losing these games. We'll use this opportunity just to get the final look of the World Cup squad right.

The IPL begins in March. Same old questions will be asked of cricketers -- whether it's worth playing them in a T20 league right ahead of the World Cup. And god forbid, if there are injuries, it'll only lead to controversies...

We've already been in touch with the BCCI and the CoA in this regard. We have certain plans in place and we'll be looking to follow them. Usually, the two months of IPL are seen as relatively free months for me and I can just sit down and enjoy the cricket, watch out for new, young talent that keep emerging. But this IPL will be about monitoring the India players, keeping the World Cup in mind. There's a lot coming up and you'll see the right measures being taken. The trainer, physios, assistant coaches, the captain, me -- we're all in touch with the Board to make this work.

Australia and Virat Kohli have a karmic connection of sorts...

Oh, he loves it here. He loves it because they love him and his brand of cricket. The Aussies fight hard, hate giving away anything easy. And that's Virat for you. He's a fighter who plays his cricket hard. He loves a good challenge, loves giving it in the face. His passion and perseverance is a shot in the arm for Test cricket and when you have an individual with a combination of talent and personality like that, it begins to show inside the dressing room too. He has his priorities sorted -- not here to please anyone. Here to play good cricket and make an effort to win.

He's (Virat) struggled with the toss. But whenever he's won it, the team has bagged the Test...

Yes, if keep Nottingham aside (India lost the toss but won the Test) -- Johannesburg, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney (India were on verge of winning), whenever India's won the toss, they've won the Test. So, luck has a role to play too because toss is not something in your hands. And despite losing the toss, we came so close to winning in Cape Town, Edgbaston and were very much in the game in the last two Tests matches in England.

Pacers have been a revelation right from South Africa till now...

Absolutely. Ishant, Shami, Bumrah --they've been fantastic. Until a couple of years ago, Shami used to be so injury prone. Lasting an entire series alone would be a high point. For a bowler of his calibre, working on fitness has brought tremendous rewards. The benchmarks set for fitness -- be it the YoYo tests or just day-to-day training -- have helped immensely. Ishant has been a workhorse, the backbone of this attack and Boom (Bumrah) -- well, what can I say. To set fear in the hearts of batsmen on tours of England and Australia is in itself quite an achievement. Look at what Ian Chappell is saying: This is the finest pace attack to visit Australia. That a serious compliment and worth every bit. I'm so proud of these boys.

While fitness is something that India have worked well on, it's also something that's left the team worried on certain occasions...

Look, injury sustained during play is one thing and maintain an overall level of fitness at this level is another. You can't do much about injuries. You can't control them. But you can certainly make sure that your fitness levels matches the highest standards. When I took over for the second time (as coach), I was very clear that fitness of players will be paramount and that's the one thing we've pursued with great discipline.

Pujara's batting has been pure joy. An effort like that changes the entire ballgame...

Good old Test match batting. That's what he brought to the crease every time he walked out. In world cricket today, if there's anybody out there looking for that one guy to save your day, save you a Test matches, it's him (Pujara). He's the kind of guy who doesn't get rattled. And when a batsman like that -- who knows where his strengths lie --gets his space, bowlers obviously can't do much.


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