India head coach Ravi Shastri lauded his side’s ability to bounce back from a bruising Test series loss to overwhelm their hosts South Africa 5-1 in the six-match ODI series. The tourists dropped their nine-series winning streak at Centurion in January but hit back immediately with a consolation Test victory in Johannesburg. That win then spurred the side to an unprecedented series victory in the rainbow nation, and in the process took India to the top of the 50-over ranking charts.
A ‘proud’ Shastri offered the full credit to Virat Kohli for the turnaorund. “You spoke of intensity, where does the intensity come from?,” Shastri said, beginning his press conference with a mandatory rhetoric. “When you have a leader like that who leads by example, the other guys jolly well follow. Otherwise they know what to expect.
“That’s the beauty about this team on this trip where I feel proud as a coach about my boys is the intensity they showed. Even after being two-zip down in the Test series, for them to show that kind of character to come back and win that Test match in Johannesburg on a spiteful pitch. And to then take that momentum into the one-day series and show the consistency they’ve shown over the last two weeks is fabulous. Entire credit should go to the leader. Because he’s led from the front, first with his batting and then as I said with his intensity, which makes other people in the team also up the ante.”
The cornerstone of India’s maiden bilateral ODI series win was the smashing success of India’s wrist spin twins, Kuldeep Yadav (17 wickets at 13.88) and Yuzvendra Chahal (16 wickets at 16.38), who between them took 33 South African wickets. This performance, to the team management, was the ultimate shot in the arm since they decided to put all their eggs in the wrist spin basket post Ashwin and Jadeja’s relative ineffectiveness in the Champions Trophy 2017. The middle overs, where R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had struggled to provide breakthroughs, had been a topic of discussion in Shastri’s previous term as team director.
“I think even in my last stint, Virat and me have always discussed that we need wickets in the middle overs,” Shastri said. “You know we’ve got to somehow be able to attack and find ways of breaking partnerships and not allowing the game to drift. So that was the idea. And then identifying the right kind of people to do the job. Luckily for us, Kuldeep and Chahal have complemented each other beautifully. They bring great variety – it’s great for the viewer, it’s great for the spectator to see that kind of variety when they come to watch a cricket match. Not just batting or fielding, but some classic spin bowling.”
Shastri resonated Kohli’s stance that the depleted South Africa, who at one point had Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock missing simultaneously, would not in any way take the sheen of what has been a thumping victory. “We have learnt some good habits on this trip. Like I have said this is a young side, they have got a lot of tough tours coming up and I think they have conducted themselves and handled themselves extremely well on this tour,” Shastri said.
“One thing history tells me, I have been coming here since 1992, there is not one South African side in the world that anyone can say is a weak side. You just look at their bilateral record and they are one of the great sides in bilateral cricket. I have followed this game for a long time. I have been a broadcaster as well and covered a lot of South Africa games and I know how they play. So I would like my boys to enjoy every bit of this series win. Whatever the scoreline is they must enjoy because it doesn’t happen every day.”