Notwithstanding India’s shock defeat in the first cricket Test against Sri Lanka, Team Director Ravi Shastri on Monday made it clear that they will not change their style of play in the remaining two Tests, saying the endeavour has always been to play “fearless cricket”.
In an extraordinary twist in Galle, India capitulated to an embarrassing 63-run defeat against the islanders, who scripted one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent Test history.
“Let’s hope lightning doesn’t strike twice, because we will not change our style of play. Our mindset will be the same. But to close the deal you have to walk the distance and we made that mistake in the first Test. They are getting closer and for this team, it is a case of getting one on board. Then it will be the start of many,” Shastri told reporters in Colombo.
Asked if the team was under pressure, the former captain responded in negative.
“It was not a question of buckling under pressure. They go out with intent. The endeavour of this team is to play fearless cricket that comes with mindset. These boys have enough talent. I am sure they must have thought after the match why I didn’t play this shot, why I didn’t play in this manner.”
Shastri said that the batsmen didn’t perform, as they should have against spin in the second innings of the Test and the whole team is hurting after a shocking loss.
The beleaguered squad arrived in the city on Sunday, but woke up to the news that Shikhar Dhawan has been ruled out of the rest of the tour with a hairline fracture to his right hand.
“I can tell you the mood in the dressing room wasn’t good. We didn’t leave for a hour and a half because everyone was hurting badly, and there was a good, honest discussion,” said Shastri.
“When you win six sessions and you lose two sessions, but still go down 1-0 in the series, there’s a lot to take away from that match. There’s a lot to learn from it as well. We are not skirting behind any problems and there are no excuses. It is for us now to come out as a team and learn what went wrong in that Test.”
India lost the match despite taking a 192-run lead in the first innings with Dinesh Chandimal playing a counter- attacking hundred. Then Rangana Herath and Tharindu Kaushal shared 10 wickets between them to leave Indian batsmen shell-shocked. It has become a trend with this line-up as they struggled against Moeen Ali in England and against Nathan Lyon in Australia.
“I wish they had attacked on that last day and not defended,” said Shastri.
“I am not saying start hitting fours and sixes, but attacking by being more positive, playing with intent and keeping busy at the crease. Against Moeen Ali, yes they were too aggressive. Here they were too tentative and too defensive. They should have been more aggressive.”
“It doesn’t mean be too aggressive, or too conservative. Don’t go hell for leather but play smart cricket. We weren’t doing that so there is learning from it. And this is a young team that will learn.
“When you lose a Test like this, it hurts you more than some others. You were ahead in the match and you lost it. So you learn from these kind of matches more than others and hopefully you will see it in the next few days,” he added.
Shastri said that there will be some changes in the team for the second Test mainly because of injuries.
“There will be some changes with regards to team personnel. Dhawan’s injury was sustained on day one of the first Test when he dropped a catch in slips. He batted in pain during both innings and came out fighting with a hundred on day two, although that knock didn’t help his side register a win.
Meanwhile, Murali Vijay is recovering quickly from the hamstring injury, but a final call on his selection for the Test will be made only 24 hours before the match. Stuart Binny was expected to join the team today evening. There has been no replacement named for Dhawan as yet.
“This is something you become used to in the modern era with the amount of cricket being played. You have three formats of the game and certain players play all three. So there are bound to be injuries. It also shows you the way forward as to the kind of backups you have. You have to be ahead of the eight ball in a close series like this because there are no gaps in between the Tests,” Shastri said.
“It’s unfortunate for Shikhar because he is a class player. It also shows the courage that he showed in the last match because that injury was before he batted in the first innings. He played with a fracture and he came out with a hundred. Then his hand was badly hurting yet he batted in second innings and scored 30-odd.
“So that’s the positive I take out from a player when his team is in a situation like that,” he added, praising the left-handed opener.
When asked about what role Binny is expected to play in the side, Shastri replied, “We thought about it and we needed someone for additional support. He could come in where you need to play an extra batsman who can bowl a bit as well. And he can bowl as he is a genuine all-rounder. We can use him depending on conditions on offer in the last two matches.”
The second Test starts on August 20 at the P Sara Oval here, and it will be Kumar Sangakkara’s last international match. Sri Lanka will be looking to seal his departure with a Test series win.
“Yes, the victory will give them confidence but not far too much because they know which team dominated that Test. It was individual brilliance from Chandimal and Herath. For sheer bravado and audacity you have to give Chandimal full marks.”