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‘A welcome rest’ – Shastri says cricket schedule was taking a toll on Indian players

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

India coach Ravi Shastri has spoken of how the enforced break in cricket due to Covid-19 has come as a “welcome rest” for the team.

India were swept 2-0 in the two-match Test series in New Zealand last month, having been defeated in the three-match ODI series as well. The loss in the Tests, in particular, stung India, the No.1-ranked side in the world, and Shastri has now revealed how that was in part down to mental fatigue.

Had things progressed as usual, India would have then returned home for a quick three-ODI series against South Africa before two further months on the road for IPL 2020. However, with the coronavirus pandemic bringing the sport to a standstill, Shastri said the Indian players are spending some much-needed time at home.

“[This rest] cannot be a bad thing because towards the end of the New Zealand tour, you could see some cracks coming up when it came to mental fatigue, physical fitness and injuries,” Shastri told Michael Atherton, Rob Key and Nasser Hussain in a Sky Sports podcast.

“The amount of cricket we have played over the last ten months, that was beginning to take its toll. Guys like me, and some other guys from the support staff, we left India on May 23 for the World Cup in England. Since then we have been at home for 10 or 11 days.

“There are certain players who played all three formats, so you can imagine the toll it has taken on them, especially being on the field, adjusting from T20s to Test match cricket and all the travel that goes with that because we travelled quite a lot.

“After England, we went to the West Indies, then played South Africa here [in India]. We had a season of two-and-a-half months here, and then again went off to New Zealand. It has been tough, but a welcome rest for players.”

India were swept in the Tests and the ODIs in New Zealand

India are enjoying some much-needed rest after being swept in the Tests and ODIs in New Zealand

India is currently on a 21-day lockdown, but Shastri revealed the squad “knew it was coming” towards the end of their tour of New Zealand. “We knew something was on the cards as the disease had just started spreading,” he said. “When the second ODI [against South Africa] was called off, we knew something was going to happen and a lockdown was imminent.

“The players knew it was coming, they sensed it in New Zealand. There were apprehensions towards the end of that tour, when flights were coming through Singapore, out of Singapore. By the time we landed [in India], I thought we got out at just the right time.

“There were only two cases in New Zealand at that time, that has rocketed now to 300 [514, at the time of writing]. The day we landed, that was the first day they were screening and testing people at the airport. So [we came back] just in the nick of the time.”

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