Shastri advocates the 'believe in yourself' gospel for under-fire India

Looking at Ravi Shastri in the press conference two days before India’s must-not-lose Test in Nottingham, one would’ve been forgiven for thinking his team is 2-0 up, not down.

Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, not half an hour ago, cut a sorry figure as the English media grilled into him about the impact, the negative and the positive, Ben Stokes and his return would have on the home team. Shastri, on the other hand, was at his blustering best, even if his comments on India’s poor performance so far were mostly just cliches.

“Just believe in yourself,” Shastri said what a coach would tell his wards when they were 2-0 down. “You have been in this position couple of times before and you have responded. One thing for sure in this unit, there is no negative bone. Okay… inspite of what happened in the last Test match, conditions favoured England and that is no excuse whatsoever, it can happen to any side. We are here without a negative bone, wanting to play to win, as simple as that.”

‘Believe in your self’ could be the easiest thing to tell someone, but that is precisely what the Indian team needs to do in order suceed in England. Virat Kohli has already shown that batsmen can succeed here. Vijay has the game, while Pujara and Rahane have shown that they can fall back on their defence.

For Shastri, it was a case of being prepared to look ugly in order to succeed that’s perhaps been missing.

“Conditions have been tough as you have seen right through this series. But that’s where character comes into play and discipline comes into play, the resolve to know where your off stump is, leave a lot of balls, be prepared to look ugly and dirty and show some grit,” he said.

Shastri also conceded that the team management made an error by including two spinners for the Lord’s Test. India had gone in with both R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav in their attack when the conditions screamed out for another pacer. And predictably, both spinners had very little impact on the game as England raked in the runs after losing their top order to the pacers.

“In hindsight, it was an error. We should have gone, seeing the conditions, with an extra seamer. It might have helped. Then again, you didn’t know how much it would rain, whether a match could go into the final day where just in case spinner is needed and the ball starts to turn, would we have needed him. But in hindsight the way things panned out, the amount it rained, the time we lost, a seamer could have been a better option.”

India are out looking for better options in Nottingham as they try to save the Test series. Rishabh Pant batted for long in the nets and even kept wicket to the spinners during the session, while Dinesh Karthik wiled his time away just outside. Jasprit Bumrah, who had been ruled out of the first two Tests with a hand injury, bowled with a smaller bandage on his left hand and even took some high catches, which indicates that he is closer to a return to the XI.

When asked, Shastri refused to reveal any details about India’s plans for the third Test. He did, however, say that Kohli, who was struggling with a back injury late in the Lord’s Test, is feeling much better now. The Indian captain batted freely in the nets, and even participated in slip catching without any apparent discomfort.

“About Rishabh you will know 11 AM day after. Kohli… he is feeling much better. You saw him in the nets, he is moving much better and improving by the day,” he said.

India will hope that some of the confidence Shastri has in his team rubs off on the players, and they can display the same when they take on England on Saturday. If they don’t, it could be another long series and India’s exuberant head coach would need to have more of the ‘believe in yourself’ talks with his players.

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