Indian cricket team director Ravi Shastri expects a tough series, beginning next month, when South Africa tour India to play three Twenty20 Internationals, a five-match One-Day International (ODI) series and four Test matches.
“You got to respect the fact that they are the No.1 team in the world. We know what we are up against. They play well in overseas conditions. They travel better than any other side in world cricket and their record will show that. We respect them but we won’t take any backward steps,” said Shastri at a training camp for the Indian team in Bengaluru on Friday.
Shastri, whose position with the team was extended up to the World Twenty20 in India next year, said he was up to the challenge of managing a young team which will be led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the shorter formats and Virat Kohli in Tests.
“Every assignment is big for me for the past 30 years. You take one series at a time. There is no small series in world cricket today. It is just the teams that change. The work ethics, what you put in to place to win a game, all that has to be done in the same way as with any other team. So nothing changes,” said the former India captain.
“I treat it as a challenge. It’s a responsibility and a challenge that I have never backed away from, like anything I have done in life. So, this is no exception. It’s a brilliant young team. You have seen their performances over the last year in all formats of the game. The endeavour will be to keep that consistency going over the next 8-9 months till we are in charge.”
As for the team strategy and composition, Shastri opined that the conditions will dictate selection.
“It is never a permanent strategy. You got to respect the conditions, play to the conditions and play to the opposition. It is important to study the opposition you are up against and then decide the best combination of your team,” Shastri asserted.
Reflecting on the Indian team’s transition phase under Kohli and after Dhoni’s retirement from Tests, Shastri felt the side was shaping up well after learning some hard lessons during the tour of Australia last winter.
“The most successful tour was of Australia. Two years down the line you will know where I am coming from. The result was 0-2 down, then we had a great World Cup (reaching the semi-finals), but the lessons learnt on that tour were hard lessons to learn and that is being put in place and I am heartened by it,” said the former right-handed batsman.
“This is a young team, very passionate and wanting to learn. They don’t want to rest on their laurels and want to be consistent.”
As for Dhoni returning to the team and taking over as captain, Shastri did not foresee any major shake-up in the squad.
“Dhoni is an all-time great and one of the legends in world cricket. He is taking over a job that he has been doing. So, there is nothing new. Everything fits into place automatically. They have played under him in the World Cup and in Bangladesh. So what’s the difference now?” Shastri quipped.
After a T20 practice game in Delhi on September 29, South Africa play three T20Is against India in Dharmasala (October 2), Cuttack (October 5) and Kolkata (October 8), followed by ODIs in Kanpur (October 11), Indore (October 14), Rajkot (October 18), Chennai (October 22) and Mumbai (October 25).
The Test matches will be played at Mohali (November 5-9), Bengaluru (November 14-18), Nagpur (November 25-29) and Delhi (December 3-7).