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India's team director Ravi Shastri has slammed the scheduling of the Carlton Mid tri-series between India, Australia and England just before the World Cup, calling the tournament a "sheer waste of time and energy".
India came in to the World Cup without a victory in any format for almost three months, losing the Tests 2-0 before failing to win a single game in the corresponding tri-series. Shastri, though, felt that the extra ODIs just before the World Cup took a toll on the players, and that he always expected India to turn around their form when it mattered most.
"I think the team was mentally drained after playing the tri-series. The boys needed to recharge their batteries and freshen up for the World Cup," Shastri told PTI. "The break from cricket did them a world of good as they came all guns blazing when it was required. And frankly speaking, I believe that this tri-series that we played was a sheer waste of time and energy.
"I am not all surprised [by the turnaround]. In fact, why should I be surprised that the team has started on a magnificent note? I had complete belief in the boys and their abilities. It was a case of performing to their potential and that's exactly what has happened in the two matches against Pakistan and South Africa. If you ask me, the script went on expected lines.
"I don't love looking back too much into the past nor am I interested in looking too far ahead. But I would like to say this with conviction that this is the best Indian fielding unit that I have seen in many years. This team has some amazing fielders and they are among the fittest in international cricket."
Shastri had special praise for Virat Kohli, who top-scored for India in the Tests with 692 runs from four matches, including four centuries. Kohli followed that up with a vital hundred in India's World Cup opener against Pakistan, earning him comparisons from Shastri with former batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.
"As far as I am concerned, I have never seen any Indian batsman perform better than Virat on Australian soil keeping Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman in mind as they have done exceptionally well," Shastri said. "I mean show me one Indian batsman who has scored four centuries in four Test matches. He has been phenomenal. He was dominant and that's the reason we carried the attack back to the Australian camp in all the Test matches."
Shastri was also quick to rubbish reports of a rift between Kohli and India's ODI captain MS Dhoni.
"I have little patience or time for nonsense that's spread around. Frankly speaking, I care two hoots about skeptics or doubting thomases spreading some stupid theory. Neither me nor the players are bothered about these stuff. If someone feels that he wants to waste his time discussing these issues, they are free to do so. And you will know why the players are least bothered about these issues. They all sleep well at night as their conscience is clear.
"Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the undisputed leader of the Indian cricket team. He has been the boss for last eight years. He has been pro-active and has always led from the front. He has been a terrific limited overs cricketer. He has won matches for India and is a calming influence in that dressing room. He has earned respect from his colleagues because he is a true leader."