Ishant Sharma © Getty Images (File Photo)
Ishant Sharma © Getty Images (File Photo)

Head coach of the Indian team, Ravi Shastri firmly believes that despite the unavailability of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah for the first Test, the Indian bowling attack has the requisite variety to deliver the goods and come out on top.

Speaking in an interview with ESPNCricinfo, Shastri said, “You have to try other people out. If Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar had been fully fit in the one-day series, it would have been a different ball game altogether. We would have both of them fully fit for the entire Test series. It would have given me selection headaches. There is still enough experience and variety in our bowling attack – whether it is pace, spin, or Hardik (Pandya) filling in as a fast-medium bowler. There are enough options there.”

Shastri reposed faith in Ishant Sharma as the premier pace bowler of India who could create an impact with his wealth of experience of bowling in various conditions. “Ishant Sharma has done brilliantly in Sri Lanka. He did outstandingly in that Test match in Johannesburg where he bowled his heart out. He might not have taken a five-for, but he kept the bloody pressure on South Africa all the time. That is his role. He is experienced. He wants to be a spearhead. He has taken more wickets than anyone else amongst the fast bowlers. He will remember his seven-wicket haul at Lord’s in 2014, which played a big hand in the win. Those are the memories that will run through his mind when he gets the ball in hand,” said Shastri on India’s seam bowling options.

Shastri also talked about the importance of adapting to the red-ball format and travelling well to leverage more opportunities for victories abroad. “We have done exceptionally well in white-ball cricket. We showed some very good signs in South Africa as far as the red ball is concerned. We want to carry that forward. The challenge for us is to be consistent in the red-ball format overseas. We believe we have the potential to be one of the best travelling teams. At the moment, there is no side in the world that travels properly. You can see what is happening to South Africa in Sri Lanka. We know our scorelines in England before this tour: 4-0 [2011], 3-1 [2014]. We want to do much better than that,” he said.

The head coach of the Indian team indicated that the Indian batting line up flexible throughout the series with the availability of third opener, KL Rahul in the mix. Shikhar Dhawan got out for zero in the first innings of the warm up game against Essex. “Yesterday morning [the first day of the warm-up match against Essex], if you get those conditions [fresh green pitch, new ball seaming and swinging], I don’t care who the opening batsman is – it is tough. On such mornings you need your slice of luck, but you have to be prepared to go through the grind, like Murali Vijay did in that period of play,” Shastri held.

“You could nick one any time, but you have to get that mental discipline that, yes, the pitch will ease out after lunch and that will make the job for the other players in the team easier. So my role is that even if I get 20-25 runs, if I have seen the team through that early period to make it easier for someone else, I have done a lot. It is about playing the conditions. It is very important you see the tough period through,” he added.

Cheteshwar Pujara has been in indifferent form in the county circuit but Shastri reckons it is just the matter of staying on the crease and have a good outing for him to get back in the grove. “He’s an extremely experienced player. I feel he is one innings away [from a big score]. He needs to spend time at the crease. If he gets one 60-70 under his belt, he will be a different player altogether. My job is to make sure he is thinking in that fashion,” Shastri added. “Pujara is an anchor. He has been one of the pillars of this batting line-up for a long time. You know what he does – he loves batting. We just want him to do it. Unfortunately, in South Africa he was run out a couple of times. That is something we don’t want. We don’t want him to be an Usain Bolt, we want to him to be Pujara. Stay there at the crease. The last thing you want to do is give your wicket away to a run-out,” reckoned Shastri.

Shastri also harped on the importance of a good start in overseas conditions and set an agenda for controlled batting in the first 20-25 overs for the tope order. “That ([the start] is a must anywhere you go overseas, especially England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The first 20-25 overs are extremely crucial. If you can come through that period (unscathed) then you get a set a good platform. Understanding your role, understanding what the team needs in those 20 overs, the discipline needed to see off those 20 overs and make sure you lose as few wickets as possible. Then you set up the game because we have enough ammunition in the middle order and lower order to take the game forward,” the coach said.

India are scheduled to play England in the first Test of a five-Test series in Birmingham, which starts on August 1.