Time Shastri did some fact-checking

India head coach Ravi Shastri during a press conference in London on Wednesday. REUTERS

The Oval indoor nets on Wednesday witnessed a rare mea culpa from Ravi Shastri but not without the India head coach praising his lads while ignoring the deeds of some famous Indian sides of the past for the umpteenth time.

“Nothing to take away (from England), the endeavour of this team is to travel well, compete and win,” Shastri boasted despite the team trailing 1-3 following another abject batting collapse in the fourth Test. He didn’t stop there. He chose to draw comparison with sides of the past, almost placing his lads above them. “If you look at the last three years, we have won 9 matches overseas and three series. I can’t see any other Indian team in the last 15-20 years that has had the same run in such a short time, and you have had some great players playing in those series.”

For a person who has played the game at the highest level and commentated on the sport for over two decades in various parts of the world, it was shocking that Shastri keeps forgetting about some famous wins — matches and series. As a coach it’s good keep the morale of the team high but it’s disrespectful to continuously discount the heroics of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni and Anil Kumble — all of whom have played a big part in scripting some memorable away triumphs.

India drew a four-match series 1-1 under Ganguly’s captaincy in Australia in 2003-04 where the likes of Justin Langer, Mathew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist were in the opposition.

Under Dravid’s captaincy, India won the Pataudi Trophy 1-0 in 2007 — the last time India triumphed in an overseas series outside of sub-continent and West Indies. Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen and James Anderson were the names the Indians had to fight against then.

MS Dhoni then led India to a series triumph (1-0) in New Zealand in 2009. Dhoni also oversaw a 1-1 result in South Africa in 2010-11, the hosts boasting of an irresistible line-up featuring Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Those Indian sides were actually great travellers. Before they boarded the plane to demanding places, there weren’t any boastful claims. And even after winning, they didn’t come back screaming from the rooftops. They understood they were cricketers and their job was to compete hard and fair. They set a high bar for themselves but didn’t need — or someone — to keep boasting or bragging about it. The results spoke for themselves.

Compare that to this crop and there has been more talk than walking the talk. Of the nine matches this side counts as away wins, five have come in Sri Lanka and two in the West Indies. For a person who has been following cricket even for the last five years knows how much value those wins carry. Yet this side (or Shastri) loves to boast and brag and belittle the past sides for rhyme or reason.

“We have run teams close overseas and we have competed,” Shastri opined at the start of press meet. “Scoreline says 3-1 which means India have lost the series. What the scoreline doesn’t say is that India could have been 3-1 or it could have been 2-2. And my team knows it. They would have hurt and rightly so after the last game. But this is a team that will not throw in the towel. It will come out there and look to compete and not be on the first flight home; rest assured, that’s exactly what we will do.”

Shastri, once a respected voice whom fans still love to hear, is right on his part to be protective of his wards even when they are under-performing. That’s the reason why many in the team like him. But for him to downplay or ignore the feats of past sides isn’t right. The prudent option would be to draw inspiration from them.

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Time Shastri did some fact-checking

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