I’d thank Laxman for his services and ask him to move on: Shastri

Shastri said one or two changes have to be made immediately, but as the next Test series (either in Sri Lanka or at home against New Zealand) is many months away, there’s time to apply one’s mind carefully.

VVS Laxman leaves the field after being dismissed for a duck during day two of the Third Test match between Australia …

Calcutta (The Telegraph):
Former India captain and cricket manager Ravi Shastri spoke to The Telegraph (from Perth) on Sunday afternoon.

The following are excerpts

Q Are you stunned or had you prepared yourself for this horror story?

A Look, I knew Perth would be a difficult venue to stage a comeback, but I expected India to put up a fight... I never expected them to cave in the way they did. More than stunned, I’ve been saddened.

What would you do if you had a decision-making role in Indian cricket?

I’d look around and pick players who have the potential to do well overseas... We’ve got to look to the future... Obviously, one or two changes have to be made immediately, but the next Test series (either in Sri Lanka or at home against New Zealand) is many months away, so there’s time to apply one’s mind carefully.

Just why did we go so wrong? After all, this was the best team, except possibly that there was no Harbhajan Singh...

Which is why this result (0-3 down in a four-Test series) is more worrying... Clearly, Australia’s bowlers had a plan and they swung it from a length... They were clever, they didn’t try and knock your head off, but exposed the technical shortcomings.

What has been the one major difference between the teams?

The consistency of the Australian bowlers... The attack is of high quality and they’ve been very aggressive, not letting India off the hook.

So, we didn’t learn anything from the disaster in England...

Where was the time? England came to India soon after our team returned and, then, we hosted the West Indies.

But isn’t it time for hard decisions?

One at a time... I’d walk up to (V.V.S.) Laxman, who has been such a terrific player for India, thank him for his services, and ask him to move on... He deserves to be treated with respect and there has to be proper communication on an issue such as this.

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What else?

Have more A tours.

Surely not to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe!

I agree with you... We need A tours to England, to Australia and to South Africa... Such tours should become a regular feature.

Looking ahead to the Adelaide Test (from January 24), Rohit Sharma for Laxman and Ajinkya Rahane for one of the openers?

Rohit definitely for Laxman... As for the other change, let’s take it one at a time... (Ravichandran) Ashwin has to come back... In fact, if the conditions so warrant, I’d play both spinners (Pragyan Ojha being the other).

[Shortly after this interview, news came that captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had been banned for one Test. Virender Sehwag, one of the big failures, will now lead in Adelaide. The big gloves are going to be worn by Wriddhiman Saha.]

It’s hard to believe that the technician, Rahul Dravid, has been bowled in eight of his last ten Test innings. What’s happened to him?

There are times when age catches up... Rahul’s got slower on his feet and Australia’s bowlers have a plan for him... He could get away in England, because the wickets there were slower, not so in Australia.

If you were Dravid, what would you do between now and Adelaide?

I’d be working out at nets and studying my footage... Rahul has an excellent work ethic and I’m sure he’ll do exactly that.

You’ve got a double hundred in Australia (206 at the SCG, in 1991-92). What does it take to succeed Down Under?

A good backfoot game and knowing where your off-stump is... If you’re an opener, you’ve got to see off the first 15-20 overs. That’s a must, otherwise you’re inviting trouble.

Mental toughness?

Yes, of course... You need to be mentally strong, for the Australians will come hard at you... They’ll be relentless... Basically, you’ve got to walk the talk.

What’s your message to a team which has been battered?

That it can’t get worse than this and, so, start to think afresh and get big runs on the board in Adelaide. Losing 1-3 will be better than 0-4.

For all the minuses, Umesh Yadav has been brilliant and Virat Kohli stood up to the pressure in Perth...

The Perth Test could be the turning point for Virat as a Test batsman... He was most impressive... As for Umesh, he’s got a good action, has the speed and swings it away at that pace... He was off rhythm at the SCG, but outstanding at the MCG and in Perth... Both Virat and Umesh should serve Indian cricket for a number of years.

How much of the blame should rest on Dhoni’s shoulders?

It’s not fair to point fingers at Dhoni... What can a captain do if his team keeps scoring below 200? Having said that, in Test cricket, his captaincy could improve... Dhoni tends to go on the defensive far too quickly... He’s got to remember that the essence of Test cricket is taking wickets... He should think of defending as a last resort only.

There have been calls for Dhoni’s head...

And replace it with whose head? I don’t subscribe to this view.

But should Dhoni have talked of possibly quitting Test cricket, around the end of 2013, on the eve of such a crucial game?

I wasn’t there at that press conference... Looking back, he’ll realise that the timing wasn’t great... But these are hard times (for Dhoni) and he’ll learn.

Has coach Duncan Fletcher been doing enough?

He can’t captain sitting in the dressing room, can he?

Finally, what’s your take on Michael Clarke’s captaincy? Have we made him look better than he actually is?

No... Clarke’s been very good, always wanting to take the game forward... In my view, he should have got the captaincy 12-14 months ago and that would’ve helped Ricky Ponting as well... As captain, Clarke’s proactive... I like that.