Shastri lambasts Indian batters for poking at fifth stump
Adelaide: Former captain Ravi Shastri on Sunday made scathing criticism of the star-studded Indian batting line-up for constantly playing away from the body outside the off-stump, which he said was responsible for their 4-0 whitewash in the just-concluded Test series.
Shastri, one of the most successful Test batsmen in Australia, said that senior batsmen like Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman did not know their off-stump in the whole series.
"They were meeting the ball on the fifth stump and playing constantly away from body. They were not meeting the ball under their eye," said Shastri.
The old adage of knowing your off-stump was best illustrated during the Test series in which India topped 300 only once.
Be it the openers, Gautam Gambhir (181 at 22.62) and Virender Sehwag (198 at 24.75) or Dravid (194 at 24.25) and Laxman (155 at 19.37), all showed uncertain footwork to deal with fast moving deliveries on their off-stump.
"Your bat should never be away from your eye. Your head should be on top of it, weight pressed forward, shoulder bending, that`s the way to go about it. When you are playing deliveries on the fifth stump, the entire weight transfer, the balance is awry," said Shastri.
"The backfoot game of the batters was exposed big time. Most of the batsmen did not know where there off-stump was," he added.
Once broadcasters Channel Nine dug out the history books to look at batsmen who have done well against Australia on their own turf, they found out, to their surprise, that Shastri topped them all. He thus was seen the perfect batsman to describe what it takes to succeed in Australia.
Shastri, in his six Tests, made 391 at 55.86 becoming the first Indian to hit a double century in Australia. Neither Sachin Tendulkar (1809 runs at 53.21), Rahul Dravid (1166 at 41.64), VVS Laxman (1236 at 41.14) among the current lot, nor Viv Richards (1760 at 47.57), Brian Lara (1469 at 41.97) Sunil Gavaskar (920 at 51.11) and Javed Miandad (1028 at 38.07) among the past greats, have bettered him.
Shastri in these six Tests, also picked up 19 scalps at 26.32. His overall average against Australia, if anything, is staggering -- 622 runs from nine Tests at 77.75. Cricket Australia found him an apt man to hand over the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to the victorious captain Michael Clarke after a 4-0 score-line was scripted at Adelaide Oval.
Shastri gave the example of Virat Kohli who came to terms with the Australian quicks due to his precise footwork.
"Kohli picked the line early and moved early. Thus his outside leave was better and he could play according to the merit of the ball," he said.
"Kohli got more runs on the onside than any other Indian batsmen. It could happen because he was moving back and across," he added.
Kohli made an impressive 300 runs in the series at 37.50 and was the only Indian to hit a century -- a brilliant 116 during the final Test at Adelaide.
Sachin Tendulkar did not have a problem on his off-stump but he faded after two brilliant fifties in the first two Tests. The little genius finished with 287 runs at 35.87.
Shastri, now a world-renowned commentator, said it does not take long to find out a batsman who is not secured on his off-stump -- the surest way to know he's out of form.
"Your feet stop moving at the pace it should. You start playing with your hands rather than with your feet. It means your hands are getting ahead of your body," he said.
Two other issues dogged the Indian batting during the series. The tailenders were regularly targeted with short-pitched deliveries. And the younger batsmen were constantly sledged in the middle.
Shastri said there was nothing wrong in giving back to sledging but it should not be at the cost of losing concentration.
"I faced sledging by giving it back -- usually with a harder sledge. As long as it does not affect your concentration at the crease, one should give it back," said Shastri.
"My dad told me early that you are not worth your salt if you don't score in Australia. They don't give you runs on a platter. Even if you are a rookie, you got to earn it," he said.
On facing bouncers, Shastri said, "Facing bouncers is a matter of sheer practice. You should always keep your weight pushing forward. It helps you sway out of line, gets easier to go down and drop your wrist.
"The trouble begins when you expect a bouncer every delivery. Then your weight is on the backfoot and the trouble is round the corner."
Shastri opines that Indian batsmen were scarred after the defeat in the first two Tests.
"They were mentally scarred. After the first two Tests were lost, the wheels literally came off," he said.
Shastri's biggest cricketing glory was earned in Australia itself when he was named 'Champion of Champions' during the 1985 Benson and Hedges one-day tournament. Opening the innings, he made over 200 runs and claimed 12 victims.