Ravi Shastri, head coach of the Indian team, defended his vice-captain, Ajinkya Rahane, when asked about his woeful performances with the bat of late.

The middle-order batsman has struggled in England with a highest score of 18 in four innings and has seen his batting average drop by over 10 in the last 24 months. 

I don’t think it’s fair to single out any one player. Batsmen from both teams have struggled when the occasion demands. It’s a case of mental resolve, or you put mind over matter, and mental discipline will be the key as far as batsmen are concerned going forward even if this Test match. He is one of our pillars, he will remain one of our pillars,” Shastri said.

[caption id=”attachment_77908″ align=”alignnone” width=”792″] “Rahane is one of our pillars, he will remain one of our pillars”[/caption]

After conceding the Lord’s Test by a massive innings and 159 runs, India trail 2-0 in the five-match series against England. Shastri called for his team to believe in themselves ahead of the third Test, which will be played in Nottingham from Saturday, August 18.

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“Believe in yourself, you’ve been in this position a couple of times before and you’ve responded,” was Shastri’s message to the team. “One thing for sure in this unit is that there’s no negative bone. In spite of what happened in the last Test match where conditions favoured England, but that’s no excuse whatsoever. It can happen to any side. We are here without a negative bone, with one thing: to play to win, simple as that.

“Conditions have been tough as you’ve seen right through this series but that’s where character comes into play and mental discipline comes into play. The resolve to know where your off-stump is, to leave a lot of balls, to be prepared to look ugly and dirty and show some grit.”

Kuldeep Yadav, who came in for Umesh Yadav at Lord’s, was expected to be India’s trump card in the Test. However, things didn’t go quite as planned, as the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin failed to break down the English batting line-up, getting negligible assistance from the surface.

“In hindsight, it was an error,” said Shastri, speaking about Kuldeep Yadav’s selection for the Test.

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“Seeing the conditions we could have gone with an extra seamer and it might have helped, but then again, you didn’t know how much it would rain, whether the match would go into the final day in case a spinner was needed when the ball started to turn.

“In hindsight with the way things panned out, the amount of rain and the amount of time we lost, yeah, seam up would have been a better option.”

[caption id=”attachment_78423″ align=”alignnone” width=”800″] “About Rishabh Pant, you’ll know on Sunday”[/caption]

Dinesh Karthik, who was drafted into the squad as the main wicket-keeper in place of the injured Wriddhiman Saha, has been unable to impress in the series with the bat so far. With Rishabh Pant knocking on the doors, the Indian skipper and management have a tough selection call to make ahead of the Nottingham Test.

“About Rishabh Pant you’ll know by 11 o’clock (on Saturday). (Virat) Kohli is feeling much better, in the nets he is moving much better and improving by the day,” Shastri added.  

The Indian head coach spoke about Ben Stokes and England’s dilemma pertaining to his selection, and said there’s no reason for the all-rounder to be excluded from the third Test now.

“We focus on cricket. He’s a terrific cricketer and we like to play against top cricketers, as simple as that. He’s been cleared by the courts, what’s the reason for him not to play? If I was in England’s position, I would have wanted him to play,” he added.