India head coach Ravi Shastri has said that the team management has asked the BCCI to arrange “a couple” of warm-up matches ahead of their four-Test series in Australia, which begins on December 6. In an exclusive interview with ESPNcricinfo, Shastri also made it clear that he was leaving the UK in a “positive” frame of mind and had not received any communication from the board to review India’s 4-1 series defeat in the Pataudi Trophy.
The debate over India’s preparation ahead of major away Test series has raged over the last nine months. The team opted to skip the one-off warm-up match ahead of the three-Test series in South Africa in January in favour of high-intensity training sessions. In England, India played only one warm-up game, against an Essex second XI, ahead of the five-Test series. The visitors raised eyebrows by shortening the four-day match into a three-day affair.
In a conversation with the former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding on Sky Sports during the Test series in England, India captain Virat Kohli had explained why he felt warm-up games weren’t always useful. The opposition in such games, he said, was often of poor quality, and pitches unlike the ones prepared for the Test matches. In those circumstances, he felt intense practice sessions were often a better way to prepare.
Shastri has now said he is not against playing warm-up games.
“Absolutely not. Why would we be?” he 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?”
He however said it was not always possible to play as many warm-up matches as the team would like, given the choked international calendar.
“If you have two or three games against weaker sides we don’t mind because it is a game,” Shastri said. “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 start their Australia tour with a three-match T20I series, beginning on November 21. This leaves them with only a ten-day gap before the first Test.
“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.”
The 4-1 defeat in England has led numerous critics to question the role of India’s support staff, including Shastri. He, however, said he had full faith that India’s support staff could lead the team in the right direction.
“Absolutely not,” Shastri said, when asked if he was distracted by the criticism. “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.”
The full interview will be published on September 14