Shastri urges team to embrace South African challenge

File Photo/IANS: Ravi Shastri

Updated At 20:04 IST

Mumbai, Dec 27 (IANS) India chief coach Ravi Shastri on Wednesday urged the squad to embrace the challenges awaiting them in the tour to South Africa, as he insisted that they have prepared well.

India will play South Africa in three Tests, six One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). The first Test begins on January 5.

Test matches in South Africa have always been tough for India who have never won a Test series there.

“We know how tough this tour of South Africa is. That’s the beauty about their profession — wanting challenges and embracing it and that’s what we are looking for,” Shastri said at the pre-departure media conference.

“We toured Australia in 2014 and we did a pretty good job. We have done well in England. In 2015, we toured Sri Lanka and it had great tracks on which the ball seamed and swung. So preparation has been good.”

Shastri said that the players are playing together for the last few years and that will help them flourish in South Africa.

“These boys have been on the road together for the last 4-5 years — the same team. The nucleus has been the same so that should help a long way,” the former all-rounder added.

“One and half years will define Indian cricket. Tour of South Africa, Australia and England. This will be a better team after this 18 months.”

Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who skipped the One-Day International (ODI) and Twenty-20 International (T20I) series against Sri Lanka to get married, said the team is on the right track and he has full faith in the abilities of his team.

Many experts said that this is the toughest tour of India due to the playing conditions. To which Kohli replied: ” Cricket is played with bat and ball. Conditions don’t matter. I have no doubt in the ability of the team. We are on the right track.”

In South Africa, the batsmen will face extra bounce and pace from the surface. The weather conditions there are also different as compared to the sub-continent.

“You need to play cricket for a long period of time to win abroad. The hunger this time is the same. We want to do what we couldn’t the last time around,” he added.

Kohli, who was away from cricket from after the third Test match against Sri Lanka in December, said it is not difficult to switch to cricket.

“I was away for something which was much more important in my life but I had been training. Switching back to cricket was not difficult at all. Cricket is in my blood,” the Delhi batsman said.

The 29-year-old also said that adjusting to the weather conditions in South Africa won’t be a big problem for the players.

“We have many days to get used to conditions there. More than 2-3 sessions to replicate Test situations and we get to know how the conditions are at different sessions of the day. We will try and follow those procedures,” he added.