Under-fire Shastri underlines importance of warm-up matches after England debacle
Despite losing 1-4 in England, Ravi Shastri is confident about the team's progress. (Getty Images)

India coach Ravi Shastri has stressed on the need and importance of warm-up matches for India before the beginning of an overseas series. India are coming off a 1-4 hammering in England where eyebrows were raised because the team played only one warm-up game, against Essex second XI. Even in South Africa earlier this year, India had opted to rest rather than play the one-off warm-up game prior to the start of the series.

As India get ready for their big Test in Australia, Shastri, speaking to ESPNcricinfo, clarified that the team is not against playing warm-up games and that the team management has been asked to organise practice games before the Australia series starts.

“Absolutely not. Why would we be?” Shastri asked. “You can only see the results (in the England Tests). Every time after the second Test we have improved. You can still get better. But why can’t we be in that position in the first Test match?

“If you have two or three games against weaker sides we don’t mind because it is a game. But when you have a schedule as tight as this and when you have a memorandum of understanding that has already been formulated, with a choc-a-bloc calendar, there is very little you can do. Now, we have requested for a couple of (warm-up) games in Australia before the Test series. But is there space (to play those matches)? That is the question.”

India and Australia play three T20Is followed by a 10-day gap after which the first Test will be played on December 6. Shastri added that while the team is certainly open to the idea of playing a practice game in between, it all boils down to the schedule.

“Ideally we would want two three-or four-day games before a Test series,” Shastri said. “But do you have the time? For example, we have a T20 series in Australia preceding the Test series. There is a 10-day gap before the first Test. These are things that have been approved earlier. It is not in our control.”

Following India’s Test series debacle in England which saw them lost 1-4, Shastri has come under the scanner. Certain reports have emerged which suggest Shastri is due to present himself in front of the board members and offer an explanation behind the team’s overseas struggle. He recently said that the current side is the best touring in the past 15-20 years of Indian, a remark that wasn’t taken well by former Indian cricketers. Does the criticism affect him?

“Absolutely not,” Shastri said. “Last one to press the panic button when I see so many positives. I head back home with a very positive state of mind. I know exactly what we do. I know exactly and clearly where the team is heading – it is heading in the right direction.

“People are entitled to their opinions. As long as we know the job we are doing and we are honest to our jobs, as long as support staff we are helping players channelise their energies in the right direction, we are not worried about what critics say.”

Despite a formidable record at home, India have lost back-to-back away series under Virat Kohli. Shastri, reiterating his point about India being competitive, added that the team is just a few good results from asserting themselves as a strong travelling unit.

“I have already told you before the series: tell me one team in the world at the moment that goes out and competes all the time. We are the one team. It is just that we need results coming in our favour more often on the winning side. But we are out there competing. And we know it,” he said.

“We are not worried about what people will say and what they will do. We know what this team has done in the last three to four years. In the last four years this team has won nine Tests overseas. They want more.

“The beauty is they are hungry, they are passionate, and that is why you saw that performance on the last day. They will keep fighting. That is the biggest positive for me to come out of this entire trip: India fought every bloody session of the series despite being blown away at Lord’s.”