CHENNAI: India’s chief coach Ravi Shastri’s claim that the current team which lost the Test series in England with a match to go is the best to have come out of the country in the last 15-20 years has come in for sharp criticism from several former India cricketers.
Speaking at the Oval where the final Test starts on Friday, Shastri had said, “In the last three years, we won nine matches overseas and three series (one in the West Indies and two in Sri Lanka). 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 the record, India won a Test series in England in 2007 and drew one in 2002. They also drew series in Australia (2003-04) and South Africa (2010-11), other than winning in New Zealand (2008-09). With Shastri as coach, India have lost Test series in all these places, barring New Zealand, where they have not gone since he joined. So Shastri’s claim contradicts statistical evidence.
Former India players Express spoke to don’t agree with the head coach. Bharath Reddy, Venkatapathy Raju, Hemang Badani, all differ with Shastri. “The current team is certainly not the best that has played abroad,” said former wicketkeeper Reddy. “We won in England in 2007 and twice before that. This lot failed to play consistently and lost. Barring Virat Kohli, the batting lacks fire which teams of the past had. The bowling too, fumbled, when it mattered and let the tail wag,” added the man who was part of the England tour in 1979.
Former spinner Raju too believes that Shastri’s claims lack statistical backing. “I think we were not inferior to the current side. We defeated Pakistan in Pakistan (2003). Rahul Dravid won a Test series in England (2007). We drew in Australia too (2003-04). Stats are there for everyone to see. It is difficult to compare, but if you really want to, I can say our generation had fire in the belly to fight till the end.”
Hemang Badani, who belongs to the Sourav Ganguly era, too believes this is not the best team India has had. “One can say this is one of the best attacks we had that took 20 wickets abroad regularly. But as a team this isn’t the best. Our batting was a failure. First when the ball was swinging they could not play. Later, when the ball was spinning, they failed again. What the players lack is grit which the teams of the past had,” said the former batsman.
That’s not all. Speaking to the former players one also gets a feeling that they believe in terms of technique and temperament, they notice a deterioration. “Lack of application and poor technique did us in this series. T20 has spoilt the mindset of the players as they lack patience and want to score off every ball,” opined Raju, who has also been a national selector.
The other thing they want to remind Shastri is that it’s not prudent to compare teams of different eras. It’s easy to make statements, and equally important to verify whether such sweeping remarks are supported by evidence. If not, it’s better to refrain from these.