Australia v India, 4th ODI, Canberra January 19, 2016

Shastri denies claim that Indian batsmen are selfish

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'An opportunity for youngsters to learn' - Shastri

Ravi Shastri, India's team director, has thrown his weight behind his batsmen and has asked the bowlers to learn their lessons. India have scored 309, 308 and 295 in the first three ODIs of the series against Australia, but have failed to defend any of those totals. In particular, Shastri has defended the batsmen against charges of selfishness.

India have so far scored 67, 67 and 60 from overs 31 to 40. These have been the overs when their set batsmen have approached their hundreds. In Perth, Rohit Sharma took 24 balls from 83 at the start of the 31st over to reach his hundred. Similarly in Brisbane, between the 30th and the 40th overs, Rohit took 21 balls to move from 86 to 100. Virat Kohli took 15 balls to score the last 16 runs of his century between the 38th and 43rd overs in Melbourne.

This has reignited a belief held by some Australians that Indian batsmen slow down near a milestone, costing their team crucial runs. Matthew Hayden said so 10 years ago, and it has begun resonating in the Australian media again.

MS Dhoni calmly said "no" when asked if he thought Indian batsmen were milestone-driven, but Shastri had a more colourful answer. "If they were focusing on milestones, Virat Kohli wouldn't have been the fastest to 7000 runs; he would have taken another 100 games. If that was the case, Rohit Sharma would not be having two double hundreds, and a score of 264."

Shastri also said there wasn't much more the batsmen could have done even though they were playing probably a third-choice Australian bowling attack. "I don't think so," Shastri said. "If you look at the skills of those bowlers, there is skill there. You might say inexperience. They have played a lot of cricket, a lot of domestic T20s, a lot of one-days. So the skill factor is very good."

The Indian attack is far more experienced, but a mix of conditions and poor bowling has let them down. Shastri said the bowlers needed to learn fast. "Finishing touch is better bowling, and being more consistent as a bowling unit. As MS mentioned, there were too many easy boundaries. It is not like the batsmen had to earn it, they were given. That should be eliminated. Even if you cut that by 60%, we will have tighter games. Those are the areas. Attention to basics. If we do that right, who knows…"

With the series lost and expectation reduced, Shastri said he wanted the bowlers to show him they had learned their lesson. "What you want to see is the bowlers learning from what has happened in the first three games," he said. "If that happens, that will be the biggest plus irrespective of the result. That is what I said last year when we played cricket in Australia. We might have lost the series 2-0, but deep inside I knew the way the boys played there was only going to be improvement."

Shastri did mention the tough schedule and injuries (one, to Mohammed Shami) as a mitigating factor. "It is a young side, there have been three debutants, we have been plagued by injuries," Shastri said. "No excuses, I am not giving any excuses here, but it is an opportunity for the youngsters to learn. In Australia nothing comes easy. It's one of the hardest places to play. You are playing against the world champions. The fact that you are competing, and they have competed right through this one-day series, is very good.

"We need bench strength, this is one of the toughest tours. And I have been to Australia many many times. I tell you why. Because if you look at the last six days we have been in three time zones. It is not often you go through that. You play in Perth, get on a flight to Brisbane where the time is different, then to Melbourne where the time is different. All in a matter of six days. When you consider all that, I think the boys have done extremely well."

Shastri said he will ask the BCCI to send a 16-member squad for such tours.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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