Ex-India head coach Ravi Shastri threw light upon India’s attitude and response to on-field jeering from their Australian counterparts during his seven-year spell. The former India allrounder oversaw two famous Indian Test series wins in Australia during his tenure as head coach of the side.
The Indian team led by Virat Kohli became the first Asian side to clinch a Test series Down Under on the 2018-19 trip, winning the four-match Test series 2-1.
It was a feat and the scoreline that they repeated two years later with an incredible come from behind series victory, considered one of the most remarkable comebacks in Test history on the backdrop of the ignominious “36 all-out” in Adelaide.
After going down at the Adelaide Oval, the Indian team pulled off an inspirational win in the Boxing Day Test at MCG, earned a fighting draw at the SCG with their backs against the wall and breached the fortress of Gabba with a fantastic run-chase on the final afternoon.
Apart from a lot of skill and temperament, the series win required India to never let the Aussies get under their skins and respond in equal measure to all the sledging, the abuse that was hurled at their way, says Shastri, whose mantra for his team was to give back as they received it.
“The most important thing is getting among the players and setting a tone from the outset: what you believe in, what you think of them and changing the mindset to compete and win.
You have to be bullish and brutish in wanting to achieve that. For us, and now England, it was about setting the challenge of winning abroad, big time. I was very firm when it came to team culture: all the prima donnas and all that shit, that had to go out of the window early,”he told the Guardian, giving a peek into his days with the side and his philosophy as a coach.
A constant pursuit for excellence toughened up his players and helped them confront every opposition with their heads held high irrespective of whether they were playing them at home or home.
During his term, Shastri was vocal on multiple occasions regarding taking the surface out of the equation and upskilling the side to an extent where they could hammer teams like Australia in their den.
“”When I was the director of the team, it was about diagnosing problems: I was asked to hire and fire, whoever I wanted I could get in and whoever I didn’t could be shown the door. And it was also outlining how we want to play: to be aggressive and ruthless, to up the fitness levels, to get a group of fast bowlers to take 20 wickets overseas.
And it was about attitude, especially when playing the Aussies. I told the boys if one single ‘fuck you’ comes your way, give them three back: two in our language and one in theirs,”he added.
Shastri’s seven-year term with the side, including two years from 2014-16 as team director, ended in a disappointing fashion with the Super 12 exit at the T20 World Cup last year. But the ex India cricketer had many famous Test match victories to boast of in Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies, England, and South Africa, apart from retaining India’s dominance in home conditions.
Historically, tours of Australia were the toughest for the Indian side. But with their twin series victories, the Indians have managed to overcome the intimidating presence of the hosts once and for all. They will be hoping to continue their good run Down Under when they next visit in 2024-25 Australian summer.