Mumbai, Dec 27: India chief coach Ravi Shastri on Wednesday urged the squad to embrace the challenges awaiting them in the tour to South Africa, as he insisted that they have prepared well.
India will play South Africa in three Tests, six One-Day Intertiols (ODIs) and three Twenty20 Intertiols (T20Is). The first Test begins on January 5.
Test matches in South Africa have always been tough for India who have never won a Test series there.
“We know how tough this tour of South Africa is. That’s the beauty about their profession — wanting challenges and embracing it and that’s what we are looking for,” Shastri said at the pre-departure media conference.
“We toured Australia in 2014 and we did a pretty good job. We have done well in England. In 2015, we toured Sri Lanka and it had great tracks on which the ball seamed and swung. So preparation has been good.”
Shastri said that the players are playing together for the last few years and that will help them flourish in South Africa.
“These boys have been on the road together for the last 4-5 years — the same team. The nucleus has been the same so that should help a long way,” the former all-rounder added.
“One and half years will define Indian cricket. Tour of South Africa, Australia and England. This will be a better team after this 18 months.”
Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who skipped the One-Day Intertiol (ODI) and Twenty-20 Intertiol (T20I) series against Sri Lanka to get married, said the team is on the right track and he has full faith in the abilities of his team.
Many experts said that this is the toughest tour of India due to the playing conditions. To which Kohli replied: “ Cricket is played with bat and ball. Conditions don’t matter. I have no doubt in the ability of the team. We are on the right track.” In South Africa, the batsmen will face extra bounce and pace from the surface. The weather conditions there are also different as compared to the sub-continent.
“You need to play cricket for a long period of time to win abroad. The hunger this time is the same. We want to do what we couldn’t the last time around,” he added.
Kohli, who was away from cricket from after the third Test match against Sri Lanka in December, said it is not difficult to switch to cricket.
“I was away for something which was much more important in my life but I had been training. Switching back to cricket was not difficult at all. Cricket is in my blood,” the Delhi batsman said.
The 29-year-old also said that adjusting to the weather conditions in South Africa won’t be a big problem for the players.
“We have many days to get used to conditions there. More than 2-3 sessions to replicate Test situations and we get to know how the conditions are at different sessions of the day. We will try and follow those procedures,” he added.
Meanwhile Shastri on Wednesday said the South Africa tour is the perfect time for pacer Jasprit Bumrah to be included in the squad after having already proved his mettle in limited overs. The former all-rounder also tagged Bumrah as one of the best fast bowler in the world in limited overs format of the game.
The 24-year-old right-armer Bumrah who has been effective in the Twenty20 Intertiol (T20I) and One-Day Intertiol (ODI) for India — picking 40 and 56 wickets, respectively — was included in the Test squad for the first time.
India will play South Africa in the first of three-match Test series at Cape Town on January 5.
“I think he is very exciting. In the limited overs, he has shown how good he is one of the best in the world. acknowledged by his opponent,” the 55-year-old told reporters at the pre-departure press conference.
“For Gujarat as well, he has run through the opposition, has taken five or six-wicket haul. He is a very quick learner, his confidence level is high Good time for him to get in (the squad),” Shastri added.
Meanwhile, India team captain Virat Kohli praised his premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for learning leg-spin and said as a batsman too you try to do experiments.
“I think it was an experiment on a persol front. As a batsman also you try to add your batting. He could be thinking of adding some element to his bowling,” Kohli felt. (IANS)