Home team should play to its strength: Ravi Shastri

Mohali: Calling the Wankhede pitch fiasco 'history', team India Director Ravi Shastri on Tuesday said home teams over the years have always got pitches prepared to suit their strengths and there is no need to 'hide behind that issue'.

As India gear up to take on No.1 Test side South Africa in the four-match series starting November 5, Shastri said that the rubber promises to produce quality cricket.

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India Team Director Ravi Shastri with pitch curator Daljit Singh during a practice session ahead of the first Test match against South Africa at Mohali on Tuesday. Pic/PTI 

"I believe at home you should play to your strength, there is no need to hide behind that issue. It has been happening over the years and that's what you expect in your own country. You don't expect a pitch to turn on Day 1 when you go to South Africa or Australia. So it will be interesting to see how this pitch is," Shastri said while addressing the media at PCA stadium.

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"Having said that I see a terrific series on our hands, probably the best we have had in the last ten years. That's because of the cricket that South Africa have played in the last few years," the former all-rounder said.

Shastri though refused to comment on the pitched battle between him and Wankhede's curator Sudhir Naik during the final ODI. The visitors amassed 438 before outplaying India by 214 runs and clinching the five-match series 3-2. Shastri had apparently made a sarcastic comment about the pitch, while Naik said the former captain abused him and the matter was taken up by the MCA.

"The incident is history, let;s talk about now. I have spoken about that enough and there is nothing to add and not a word to subtract," Shastri said.

India come into the series at the back of a historic Test series win in Sri Lanka, which came after 22 years. Test skipper Virat Kohli, who enjoyed his first series win as captain there, is once again in the spotlight and Shastri was all praise for the young leader.

"Kohli has been the Test captain for long enough. He is going along beautifully, The Sri Lankan win was a test of character for the boys and for him as well and he rose to the occasion. And he will only learn. As I said that this side's average age is 25-26, captain is also around that age and this team has plenty of years ahead of them," he said.

"The best thing that is happening to them is that they are up against the best Test side in the world. So it's good to play the best team in the world, so that's when you learn the maximum because you are exposed to the team who is very good," he added.

When reminded about the Australian series in 2001, which India won by a 2-1 margin, Shastri said that the current series is no less.

"I can't remember a series since then as big as this. So the opportunity is there for the team to go out and show their mettle. If they end on the winning side, nothing like it, it will be brilliant. Before that it was the West Indies that
came in the 80s," he said.

"You saw those kind of team's coming in, you wanted to win a Test match. It was always a big moment in Indian cricket. That's why I keep saying that this is going to be one of the biggest series in a long time," he added.

Going by stats and records, South Africa, who have already pocketed the T20 and ODI series, come into the Tests as favourites as they have not only become the fourth team to win two formats in India but can also be the first side to capture all three formats in a tour. Shastri though sees a different side to the story.

"I look at it the other way. I put it right back on South Africa. They have been unbeaten for the last seven years. India have a great opportunity to upstage that and do something special. If India beat South Africa they will go up two three places in the rankings. I am someone who always looks at what is positive," he said.

India, on the other hand, are also on a familiar track having won four of their last five Tests at the PCA stadium and Shastri also sees that as a big plus.

"It helps when you have that kind of a record. The best win came against Australia (2010). It was a tight win ' India won by 1 wicket -- and I remember VVS (Laxman) pulling off a special once again. The semi-final of the World Cup against Pakistan. Not the size of the win but the occasion," he said.

"Helps, but not many of this team's players were there at that time. For them there is no baggage of the past I don't know how much difference it can make to them. This is such a new team, like Rohit Sharma might have played 3 or 4 Test matches, Ajinkya Rahane might have played 4 Test matches. It's a young side and perfect place to raise the bar," he added.

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