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'This is the best Indian fielding unit I have seen in many years'

March 03, 2015 15:06 IST

India's Team Director Ravi Shastri believes that the ODI tri-series we played prior to the World Cup was a sheer waste of time and energy

The Indian team celebrates after claiming a wicket

The Indian team celebrates after claiming a wicket. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

India's stunning turnaround of fortunes in the cricket World Cup may have surprised many but not team director Ravi Shastri.

With full faith in the players’ abilities, Shastri said the "script went on expected lines".

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India entered the quadrennial extravaganza following a winless tour Down Under and the defending champions were far from being favourites to retain the title.

However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's outfit proved their credentials with two convincing wins against arch-rivals Pakistan and a strong South African team. They have won all their three matches, so far, with emphatic margins and are now almost certain to qualify for the quarter-finals as the top team from Group-B.

"I am not at all surprised. 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," Shastri told PTI in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

"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," the former Indian captain said.

Ravi Shastri speaks with Ravindra Jadeja during a nets session

Ravi Shastri speaks with Ravindra Jadeja during a nets session. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

According to him, the break after a disastrous tri-series campaign, which came on the back of 0-2 defeat in the Test rubber, did the trick for the Men in Blue.

"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. 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."

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Besides batting and bowling, the Indian fielders have caught the eye with their athleticism on the field, prompting Shastri to go to the extent of calling them one of fittest units in the world.

He made the statement when asked about India’s victorious campaign in the 1985 Benson & Hedges World Championship, where the former all-rounder was at the forefront.

"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," he said.

Virat Kohli looks to the sky after scoring a century during the World Cup match against Pakistan in Adelaide

Virat Kohli looks to the sky after scoring a century during the World Cup match against Pakistan in Adelaide. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

Heaping praise on batting mainstay Virat Kohli, Shastri said the 26-year-old batsman has been the best Indian performer on Australian soil.

"I think that will be putting too much burden on one individual. He should be allowed to play freely and express himself in the best way possible," Shastri said when asked if Kohli is destined to break all international batting records.

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"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.

"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 Australian camp in all the Test matches."

Asked about rumours around rift between Dhoni and Kohli, Shastri brushed them aside.

Virat Kohli (left) speaks to India captain Mahendra Singh

Virat Kohli (left) speaks to India captain Mahendra Singh. Photograph: Vipin Pawar/Solaris Images

"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. Because they all sleep well at night as their conscience is clear."

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Asked about who controls the Indian cricket team, Shastri categorically stated that it's Dhoni who calls the shots.

"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," he said.