In the 1990s, the Indian cricket team were labelled as ‘Tigers at Home, Lambs Abroad’, meaning they were invincible at home but struggled in overseas conditions. In the 21st century, the phrase continues to haunt India under Virat Kohli. The Indian cricket team in 2014 lost 1-0 to South Africa, 3-1 to England, 2-0 to Australia and 1-0 to New Zealand away. In 2018, India have lost 2-1 to South Africa, 4-1 to England and they are now bidding to overcome their overseas jinx by winning against an Australian side that is without Steve Smith and David Warner, both banned by Cricket Australia for a year due to their role in the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town.
When asked about the ‘poor travellers’ tag attached to the Indian cricket team, Indian cricket team coach Ravi Shastri said it was unfair to single out one team when most nations are not doing well overseas. “Australia did for some time in the 90's and during the turn of century. South Africa did it for a while and other than these two, in the last five-six years, you tell me which team has travelled well. Why pick on India?” Shastri stated.
In the last five years, only South Africa have managed to win overseas consistently. The likes of Australia and England have all struggled to win in sub-continent conditions. In 2018, only England have achieved victory overseas with their recent series clinching win in the Pallekele Test against Sri Lanka.
Before the team’s departure to Australia, skipper Kohli said the team had a discussion as to what went wrong with the side in both South Africa and England. Shastri also weighed in on the factors. “We have spoken about seizing the big moments. If you look at the Test matches, the score-line really doesn't tell you the real story. There were some real tight Test matches and we lost some big moments badly, which cost us the series at the end of it. It could have been an hour in a session over four days whether it was SA or England. Either as a batsman or a bowler and see what happens after that,” Shastri said.
Not lost their aura
Australia are without their two star batsmen and following the fall-out of Cape Town, current skipper Tim Paine has suggested a toned-down approach to sledging. Even Kohli said he was happy to play in an environment that had no hostility but reiterated that India will reciprocate if Australia cross the line.
Shastri believed the team had not lost their aura despite everything that has gone on with the Australian side. “I don't think so. I think once you have a sporting culture in you, you will always have that. I have always believed that no team is weak at home. We might have three or four players not playing when a team comes to India God forbid but if anyone thinks it's a weak team, you will be surprised. Similarly, we are taking no prisoners and we want to go out and put our best foot forward, focussing on our game rather than focussing outside,”Shastri cautiously said.
When it came to sledging, Shastri was clear. “At the end of the day, it's the cricket that talks. I didn't care if a McGrath or a Warne did say something or didn't say something, they would have still taken wickets. It's as simple as that. When you can do what you are good at and do it consistently, it doesn't matter, which side you are playing for. That cricketer will do well and so will the team,” the Indian coach said.
Hardik Pandya will be missed
The current Indian side has balance when it comes to bowling unit. The likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja give the Indian bowling line-up a potent look. Shastri, though, admitted that India will miss the services of one key player
“We will miss is Hardik Pandya, who has had an injury. He gave us that balance as a bowler as well as batsman, which allowed us to play that extra bowler. Even now we have got to think twice. Hopefully, he will get fit soon and if fast bowlers do well, we might not miss him then,”Shastri said.
India start their two-month tour of Australia with a three-match Twenty20 International series on November 21 in Brisbane.