India in Bangladesh 2007 May 6, 2007

Tendulkar has plenty to offer, says Shastri

Sidharth Monga in Kolkata

"If you guys have any doubts over Tendulkar ... you will be in for a surprise," says Ravi Shastri on the eve of the team's departure to Bangladesh © AFP

Ravi Shastri the opening batsman was obdurate - he didn't thrill with his art and yet contributed to the team in a manner nobody else in his time could. On the eve of India's tour of Bangladesh, in the absence of injured captain Rahul Dravid at the customary departing conference, Shastri the cricketing manager recreated some of the old batting days.

Shastri didn't provide the media with any entertainment, letting pass every controversial question, much like the deliveries outside his off stump. "That's not my business," he said when asked whether the muddle over the contracts was affecting the players' mindset. "I can assure one thing - once they go to Bangladesh, cricket will be on the top of their minds."

He also provided a straight, broad, dead bat to the tricky ones. There's no practice match in Bangladesh before they play their first ODI on May 10 - a question of improper scheduling perhaps? "We know that; so we'll go there and get ready for the game." Asked to speak on the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly from the one-day side, Shastri said, "I have got the team that has been given to me, and we will go there and play cricket." Shastri has a term of only one series and he is incidentally also on the committee to select the new coach. "Cricket, camp, please" - pat came the dismissal as he moved out of the way of a camera flash, providing a light moment. "I'll let that go."

And when it came to questions regarding cricket and the team, he sounded upbeat, even bordering on being gung-ho, much like his six sixes in an over in a Ranji game. "If you guys have any doubts over Tendulkar or for that matter [Virender] Sehwag, you have got another one coming," Shastri said. "You will be in for a surprise. It might not come immediately... but give them some time and you will see what they are capable of... They [Tendulkar, Ganguly, and Sehwag] are not finished yet by any means."

In the same tone, he dismissed any talks of factionalism in the team. In fact, he himself brought up the topic. "What do you think? You guys have been looking at the guys from the outside. Did the guys look happy? Did you see any groups?" he asked the journalists. "I have seen a lot of bull honey being written and said over the last few days. You guys are seeing something different.

"The camaraderie out there is unbelievable. Even when I took this job, I was made to read and believe [otherwise], but it took me an hour to find out what these guys are made up of. They are a brilliant bunch and their privacy should be respected."

Shastri was also positive that Dravid was recovering well from the nose injury he had sustained at the nets yesterday, and should be able to play the first match at Mirpur on May 10. "He [Dravid] is a tough cookie. I don't have to tell you that. He has hung around long enough to be rest assured about. I am sure he would be wanting to take guard there first ball." The Indian team do not have a designated vice-captain on the tour. Would there be a leadership problem if Dravid sustains an injury that is more serious than this one? "We will relate to the ifs when the ifs arrive. Don't worry; there will be no problems. We know who should do the job and who should not do the job."

The focus after the World Cup debacle has been to live in the present and "enjoy" the game. " I didn't like the way they played over the last six months," said Shastri, "it was as if they were doing a desk job sitting behind a computer from nine to five rather than enjoying what they do. It is a sport, which is played in the open. If they enjoy it you guys will also enjoy it."

In between ducking a few and hooking a few, Shastri sounded a warning to Bangladesh. "Bangladesh is a challenge. After the World Cup it is not only the people of India who are disappointed. The players are more disappointed than anybody else. Make no mistake about that. They will want to prove a point."

The wounded ones reach the land of the Tigers tomorrow.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine.