Want the team to play fearless cricket: Shastri

“I come with no baggage,” he declared for the umpteenth time since his appointment as the new coach early last month. After overseeing India’s practice session for close to three hours here at the SSC on Tuesday, Shastri interacted with the Indian media. Typically it was marked by cheeky one-liners, oft-repeated statements and some elaborate thoughts.

“My role is to be in charge of the entire support staff and to make sure that we get the boys in some great mental space to go out and express themselves with nothing else on their minds but to go out and play a brand of cricket which you have seen India play over the last three years -- That is positive and fearless,” he announced in his baritone voice, two days ahead of India’s second Test against Sri Lanka.

Shastri, as the team’s director, supervised a fairly successful period from August 2014 to March 2016 before he was replaced by Kumble as the Head Coach in July last year. Much water has flown under the bridge in the last 12 months but Shastri said nothing had changed as far as he was concerned.

“I wasn’t there for the last 12 months, so I don’t know (what has changed),” he began. “But when I got in, it was pretty much from where I had left. I didn’t see any change, the nucleus of the team is pretty much the same and I know what to expect from them, they know what to expect from me. There is no need of reinventing the wheel or anything of that sort. I don’t know what it was like 10 months ago. As far as I am concerned, I just had to walk in. That was enough,” he reasoned.

And the team found immediate success with a 304-run win in the Galle Test inside four days to set a perfect tempo for Shastri’s second coming.

“For me, I don’t carry any baggage,” he stated when asked about the start and settling back into the role. “Nothing had changed and no special buttons I had to press. It was just that one play button and off you went. The boys were fantastic in the last Test match but what we are striving for is improvement. There are still areas to improve from the last game. And we have discussed that and what we want from this team as a unit collectively is consistency. Not just where you are good in one game and totally the opposite in the other. Your levels of consistency have to be high.”
The Mumbaikar felt the team now has enough experience to succeed outside the sub-continent on a consistent basis and accomplish things that no other Indian team has before.

“This team has been around for two years and the players are much more experienced now,” he noted. “They have already done things that a lot of Indian teams and a lot of big names couldn’t do in their careers. Like for example to win a series here (in Sri Lanka) for 20 years (in fact 22 years). A lot of big names have played for 20 years they have come to Sri Lanka many times and they have never won a series.

“But these players have done that. This team is used to doing things that a lot of other teams haven’t done and that too overseas. Forget Australia, I am not even touching Australia tour, so when you say overseas like South Africa, England, it is a lot of tough cricket coming up and I see it as an opportunity. I am very positive that this team can do things that probably no other Indian team has done,” he offered.

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