'Conditions, nature of opposition will dictate strategy'

'Conditions, nature of opposition will dictate strategy'

'Conditions, nature of opposition will dictate strategy'

Virat Kohli has been the biggest proponent of playing five bowlers in order to win Test matches and team director Ravi Shastri has often supported this idea. But the duo has also shown the willingness to shun the strategy if the conditions weren’t conducive.

India had gone in with five bowlers in the first Test in Sri Lanka but ended up under-bowling Harbhajan Singh, while the fact that they were short of a batsman did play a role in their defeat. The following Test, they summoned all-rounder Stuart Binny to beef up the batting without sacrificing a bowler.    

“Never a permanent strategy,” stressed Shastri when asked if the team was going to stick to the skipper’s stated policy. “You have got to respect the conditions. In this game, you can’t go and say ‘I am going to go with this team.’ Because it will backfire on you if the conditions are totally different. So you might need six batsmen, you might need four-and-a-half bowlers, you might need just a bowler to do the job, to give the main bowlers the rest. And play to the conditions, play to the opposition. It’s very important you study the opposition you are up against, and then decide what is the best combination of your team,” he offered.

The team management was quite flexible with batting positions as well. Despite stating that Rohit Sharma was the best batsman to play at No 3, where he can set-up matches a la Virender Sehwag, he was pushed back to No 5 in the second Test in Sri Lanka after failing in both innings at Galle while promoting Ajinkya Rahane to one-drop. Cheteshwar Pujara, the original No 3, had to open the innings in the third Test in the absence of injured M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. 

“It’s not comfort zone,” noted Shastri when asked about making players bat at other than their regular places. “Nobody is in a comfort zone. As a batsman in the top order you should be prepared to bat everywhere. As the team demands. Now these were unforeseen circumstances otherwise they wouldn’t have had to do it. You had Shikhar injured, breaking his arm. Vijay (out due to hamstring injury). We never had our two regular openers fully fit from the outset. If that was the case, then things would have been different.”

While expressing his happiness with India’s bench strength, Shastri said he would have a chat with India ‘A’ coach Rahul Dravid.

“I am going to have a chat with Rahul because he is in the best position to actually know who are the guys who can come through the ranks,” he began. “The fact that he has played so much cricket, he will understand very quickly who is the bloke who can bridge the gap (between A level and international cricket). It’s all very well getting heaps of runs in domestic cricket, but there is also a talent which comes with experience. Where you know that that guy might have got fewer runs but he will be ready for the top level because of certain things he does. Those are the things you have got to consult Rahul for. He is doing a wonderful job. The fact that he is giving so much time just after finishing his cricket, for a young team, I think it is brilliant.”

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