Ravi Shastri © Getty Images
‘You’ve got to think 20 wickets’: Ravi Shastri © Getty Images

A positive approach to the style of playing Test cricket is what Ravi Shastri, the team director, supports and encourages for the new Indian side under Virat Kohli as it looks forward to a fresh journey beginning with the three-Test series against Sri Lanka. In an interview with Daily News and Analysis, Shastri outlined with conviction the attitude his wards will be looking to inculcate, as Kohli embarks on his first multi-Test series as captain: that of the intent to play for a win, and not a draw, and of taking 20 wickets.

Kohli had indicated his inclination to have five bowlers in his team for Sri Lanka. Shastri seemed to back him: “It could be five, could be six, could be four (bowlers in the team). Whatever it takes to take 20 wickets, you’ll do your best. You don’t want to reach that position of six bowlers,” he said. PREVIEW: India vs Sri Lanka 2015, 1st Test at Galle

“Aggressive cricket is a form of cricket where you play to win. You don’t come to a cricket ground to draw a cricket match. So you play a brand of cricket where you take the game forward and you look to take 20 wickets, which is paramount. You have got to think 20 wickets, how you can take wickets to take the game forward and win the game.”

He also provided an example of the ongoing Ashes series domination by England: “Look at England in the Ashes. It’s their depth in bowling that made all the difference.”  READ: Rohit Sharma should bat at No. 3 if India need to score 300 in a day, feels Sanjay Bangar

With the intention of playing one less batsman becoming certain, the batting line-up has to be curtailed. In The spot for No. 3 is one between Cheteshwar Pujara, the staid and solid batsman who recently led the India A side in two unofficial ‘Tests’ against Australia A, and the limited-overs sensation Rohit Sharma. Shastri elaborated why the team wanted to choose Rohit.

“It’s just a case of him smelling the coffee, spending some time in the middle and getting off to a start. Then we know what he can do. No. 3 could be a very good position for him, because he has the ability to counter-attack, yet at the same time he will have to be tight initially. So we’re giving him the opportunity, we know he has the game for it. And let’s hope he clicks, because it will be exciting from Indian fans’ point of view if he gets cracking.” READ: Murali Vijay ruled out of India vs Sri Lanka 1st Test at Galle: Reports

Pujara, it seems only gets a look in if India play six batsmen. “You could play on another track in the series where you might go in with four bowlers because you think four might be enough. Then you get the sixth batsman, and he might get the opportunity there.” An injury to Murali Vijay has opened up a place at the top of the order, but specialist openers Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul may get the nod. “It (Vijay’s hamstring injury) is a big blow. He is the in-form player and has had a fabulous run in Test match cricket. He has the ability to play the long innings which he has shown and he will be missed, because he is an experienced player now.”

Three in the Indian squad of 15 are spinners: legspinner Amit Mishra, and offspinners Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin. Shastri reckons that the two offspinners offer different tests to the opposition, thereby suggesting their inclusion together in the spin-friendly tracks of Sri Lanka. READ: Ravi Shastri: Its time for India to win away Tests

“They are totally different bowlers. They complement each other beautifully, and they have tons of experience. It’s great to have that. You can see the difference in their action. Bhajji is more over the top. Ashwin is more conventional. Ashwin can bowl both over and around (the wicket). One is loopy; one can bowl quicker through the air. There are plenty of variations there. If they start getting their variations out, even as a batsman, you will feel they are two off-spinners but are totally different.”

The first Test begins on Wednesday, in Galle.