MUMBAI: India’s tour of South Africa – a 54-day contest – isn’t just yet another cricket tour. It also marks the beginning of a 24-month window that will mark for one of India’s busiest overseas campaign in a long time. South Africa will be followed by a two-and-half month tour of England in June next year. Then, a trip to Australia in December will be followed by the 50-over ICC World Cup in England and Wales in 2019.
“All I can say is this will be a better Indian team after the next 18 months,” India coach Ravi Shastri said on Wednesday.
The players feel that this is not just an international window, but a window of opportunity that could put them on the path of something special. Shastri is sure “there will be a great story to tell”.
“This one and a half years will define Indian cricket – the tours of South Africa, England and Australia,” said the coach.
“I have no doubts in the ability our team, in the work ethics of our team or the intention of every player. We are on the right track, we know that,” skipper Virat Kohli spelt it out. “We just need to connect with life on these tours. Cricket will take care of itself,” he stressed, adding, “What we need to do is not focus on it too much and let it take care of itself.
“If we are honest with our preparations and ourselves, we will be able to take care of it. We enjoy each other’s company, we don’t need to try too hard,” he added.
The captain and the coach stressed that fitness was key to the surmounting the coming challenges. “We spoke about this in Sri Lanka,” said Kohli. “A cricketer’s career span is eight, 10 or 12 years. If you start young, you tend to stay longer. Realistically speaking, a player has 10 to 15 years. That’s a very short span in your life. We sat down and spoke about it. At that time, while representing a country of billion, if you are not willing enough and professional enough, then you are not being fair to the country or the sport,” he pointed out.The captain said that improved fitness was the reason why the intensity has remained and it’s been a collective effort. “We thought about bringing in a few changes so that the professionalism can be increased and the players are taking to it beautifully,” said Kohli, “If you see their performances, they have been relentless.”