Disappointed but not demoralised by the thrashing India got in the Twenty20 Internationals against South Africa, Team Director Ravi Shastri promised a strong comeback in the ODI series and said the experience from recent losses would be handy during next year’s ICC World Twenty20.
The third Twenty20 between India and South Africa was called off last night without a ball being bowled because of a wet outfield, giving the Proteas a 2-0 series win.
“I’m disappointed with the result as anybody would be. We play to win. But it’s not that it will give me sleepless nights. It has taught me a lot as well going forward into the World Twenty20,” Shastri said in the press conference after the abandoned tie.
“First one was close, in the second game we were outplayed. I don’t want to give any excuses. As a unit we have played very little T20 cricket in bilateral series.”
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India lost the first Twenty20 in Dharmasala despite putting up 199, while in Cuttack it was a sorry state of affairs as they recorded their lowest total at home, and the second lowest overall after being skittled out for 92.
“I would go down to one game really in Cuttack where we could have played much better but we just did not show up. The boys are also disappointed about it. We would have liked to have a full game here. That did not happen. There are plenty of things to learn,” Shastri said.
“It’s a very long season coming up. It was a great exposure for the team. We might have lost the series but I treat it as a great exposure in the lead up to the World Twenty20,” he added.
Shastri blamed the series loss on the lack of exposure in Twenty20 Internationals and said the rubber had helped him get the combination right.
“It’s a work in progress. We have not played T20s. There’s a long way to go. It’s very good that a team like South Africa have come. They are one of the strongest across all formats,” he said.
“It’s a young team, we’re still figuring on what will be our best combination, the best way forward. No better preparation than playing a team like South Africa who play more T20 cricket than any other team in the world.”
The Twenty20 series is followed by five ODIs and four Tests and Shastri believed India would be an improved side after South Africa’s 72-day long tour to India.
“By the time they leave we will be a much stronger team in two-and-a-half months time. We will be a much better team irrespective of the result,” he said.
Cautioning South Africa ahead of the five-match ODI series, Shastri said India would be a far better side in the 50-over format.
“We have had a good look in the two games and know what we can expect of the South Africans. In the one-day competition we understand our game well. We are a far better side in the one-dayers and I expect very good contest over the next month,” he said.
Shastri further said they are trying to unburden Mahendra Singh Dhoni as it is important to get the skipper back in his elements.
“That will be our endeavour. We know what he can do when he starts striking. The world knows, I don’t have to say anything,” he said.
With six months to go for the World Twenty20, Shastri said form will be crucial to get a place in the team for the showpiece event.
“There is plenty of One-Day cricket coming up. Whole of December till January. We have some Twenty20 Internationals in Australia and then Sri Lanka are coming to India. There is Asia Cup. A lot of Twenty20 cricket will be played. It’s a great opportunity to throw the hat into the ring. It could be young or old or anybody, but form will be crucial,” the team director said.
With India struggling in Twenty20s, Shastri stressed on the importance to strike the right balance in all the three formats of the game.
“As cricket goes forward and Twenty20 has to survive, you have to strike the right balance. If you see the amount of bilateral series India has played in Twenty20 is much less than anyone in the world.
“The last time we played was a one-off Twenty20 game when I had taken over the team (India played two T20Is in Zimbabwe after that but Shastri didn’t travel for the tour),” he said.
“One year down the line and we have just two more matches. It’s not the fault of the Board (BCCI). There is so much of other cricket being played. Going into the future, when you are trying to balance things it might be the way forward. Like in Australia, there are five ODIs and then we play three Twenty20s. Then Sri Lanka come for three matches, and I don’t know where the Asia Cup will be played, but the conditions will be similar,” Shastri said.
Asked whether India was holding Amit Mishra for bigger assignments, Shastri said: “There is a lot of cricket being played, so you have to use your bowlers sparingly and see where they can give you the maximum profit, if they play. The amount of cricket that is being played, you need to take care of your bowler as well.”
Dhoni talked about someone taking up the responsibility at No. 6 slot and Shastri too said that the batting position is of great importance.
“We are very keen to see the December month when all the One-Day competitions are scheduled. The No.6 position has a different role in 50-over cricket, but an extremely important role in T20 cricket. The team that goes on to win the World T20, you will see the their No.6 batsman could be a very crucial player. The whole December and January month will be watched closely,” he concluded.