New Delhi: Despite crushing South Africa comprehensively in the recent Test series, Team Director Ravi Shastri feels that current crop of Indian batsmen need "massive improvement" when it comes to facing spinners on tracks that offer turn.
In an interview, Shastri also spoke about Virat Kohli having become a "leader of men" while praising Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan for showing a different aspect of their batting skills.
"The problem what we've had in the Indian team is that our boys don’t play enough domestic cricket, and it is not their fault. The calendar is so packed. So, the footwork and the way they play spin bowling on turning tracks, that aspect needs massive improvement. That will come when you are exposed to these conditions," Shastri told bcci.tv on Saturday.
"They have played overseas for the last two years and when they came home for this series, the conditions they have grown up in, were suddenly foreign to them. But it was an education," the former India captain said.
He complimented Ajinkya Rahane for adapting well after failing in two of the first three Test matches.
"Look at Ajinkya Rahane. The way he got out in the first Test -- once defending and once playing an attacking shot. And you saw how he batted in the final Test in Delhi. He was sure in attack and defence, which is the name of the game."
It's no secret that Shastri is a vocal fan of Virat Kohli's leadership skills and he was again lavish in his praise for the Indian Test captain.
"December 9, 2014, the young man (Kohli) captained India in a Test match for the first time, in Adelaide. A year later I can say that he is now a leader of men. Virat is everywhere. He is hands on, and very communicative. That's what you want in a captain. There is trust between the players and the captain, and that is the most important thing."
Shastri also praised the likes of Ishant Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh Yadav.
"I think he (Ishant) is very close to becoming a complete fast bowler. He knows how to adapt to different conditions and different situations of the game. He knows when to let go and when to hold back. He has pretty much understood his own game. He is technically very good now. There could be room for improvement, but like you said, he has grown in his role, and is our most reliable fast bowler at the moment," Shastri said.
About Jadeja, the Team Director reckoned that the break away from cricket did him a world of good.
"He needed a break. Sometimes when you are playing non-stop international cricket in all formats – which was the case with Jadeja – you do well one day, get hammered the next, and immediately the spotlight is on you. That eats into you. When he got a break for three months, when the pressure was totally off him, he got the time to reflect.
"He realised why he was sitting there and not in the Indian dressing room and which areas he needed to develop in his game. We had told him clearly, "you are out for a short while, only for you to think on your game. No one is going to come and tell you"."
Opener Dhawan did not get a half-century but his little contributions did have its own impact on the larger context, Shastri reckoned.
"I told him (Dhawan) after the match, "You scored 20s and 30s in this series but don't ever forget that those runs are priceless. They are as important as a 70, 80 or hundred on any other surface. You stalled the new-ball bowlers, kept them at bay and took your side in a solid position".
Shastri feels that it was a self-realization for Dhawan that he could also play a defensive game.
"It was a facet of his game he didn't know existed. How many people would have thought AB de Villiers would bat for three sessions for 40 runs? For me, the respect for him has gone several notches higher. Shikhar did the same thing. They are similar players – both are attacking and they like to dominate.
"But they (Dhawan and De Villiers) sacrificed their instincts for their team, and that shows their strong character. They both would have learned something about their own game from this series," he added.