New Delhi: India have never managed a series win in South Africa, but coach Ravi Shastri is determined to rewrite the history books when the men in blue tour the country next month.
"Nothing changes the way we approach any other match. For us all opposition is the same, all oppositions have to be respected and every game is a home match.
"And as it turned out that next we are in South Africa. Where South Africa is different is that we haven't won a series in South Africa. Therein lies a massive opportunity for the team to do something special," Shastri told a news channel on Monday.
"The belief is there. We are going there and we will treat South Africa like we treat any other opposition we have played against. There will be respect but we will go there to win," he added.
The Indians have registered a record ninth straight series win after drawing the pollution-marred third and final Test against Sri Lanka on December 6.
They are now level with Australia and a series win in South Africa will see them create a new world record of 10 consecutive Test series victories.
Shastri credited the team's current form to the tour of Australia in late 2014. Although the team lost that Test series, Shastri asserted that giving the Australians a tough fight at their home ground gave the Indians immense confidence.
"It started in Australia in 2014 and carried home in Sri Lanka, when we lost a Test match after dominating for three and a half days. That opened the eyes for everybody. There was a stage where we sat in the dressing room for two hours after a game, where each player questioned himself. It was looking into a mirror. We said that we will never go to play cricket like that. They were very honest with themselves and the boys said they would never be tentative again," Shastri said.
"Let me assure you, the brand that people saw in Australia was something that they haven't seen for a long, long time from an Indian team. And it showed in the World Cup and the World Cup that happened after that, the great run we had, till we lost in the semis, was thanks to that tour," he added.
Shastri also lashed out at former players who have criticised Mahendra Singh Dhoni's form and questioned his place in the limited overs squad. Shastri, however, feels that the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman is fitter than players 10 years his junior.
"We are not stupid. I have been watching this sport for the last 30-40 years. We know, at this age, he (Dhoni) can beat players aged 26. People who talk forget that they played the game. If they look at themselves in the mirror and ask the question 'what they were at the age of 36?', would they have run two runs faster? But the time they finish two, this guy will run three. Then he has won only two World Cups and averages only 51. Till today you don't have a wicket-keeper to replace him in the one-day team," the former all-rounder insisted.
"He is still one of the best around, not only in the Indian team but the world. Some of the things you see with him are not sold in the market. You will not get it anywhere else.
"The fact that he does not play Test cricket, means he should be playing as much cricket as possible till the World Cup in 2019," Shastri added.
Talking about Virat Kohli's captaincy, Shastri said that his work ethic inspires the others in the team to perform bettr.
"The great thing about Virat is his work ethic, his realisation of what kind of player he can become and what he it takes to become that player. So the emphasis on fitness, the sacrifices that he has to put through. A lot of things he wants to do as a 29-year-old. And it has become part of his lifestyle," he said.
"What happens is, that when you have a captain in that frame of mind, wanting to achieve things others can only dream of. Then it rubs off on other players. Others want to emulate him. He wants to raise the bar for himself and he doesn't want any room for excuses."
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