India coach Ravi Shastri is paying no attention to critics in his home country, accusing his detractors of "firing blanks" ahead of the Boxing Day Test at the same time he tried to clarify a mystifying snub that has Indian fans confused.

Shastri and captain Virat Kohli faced significant criticism after Australia won the second Test in Perth by 146 runs to level the series. India's decision to select Umesh Yadav as a fourth quick to replace injured spinner Ravichandran Ashwin backfired badly when man of the match Nathan Lyon claimed eight wickets for the match to spin Australia to victory.

Many commentators were baffled India had overlooked left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja — a situation Shastri wanted to clear up on Sunday when he revealed the all-rounder had been battling soreness after having an injection in his shoulder.

The combative coach also snapped back at his critics, including former skipper Sunil Gavaskar who said India's recent history of "selection blunders" would put Shastri and Kohli in the firing line if Australia went on to win the series.


"When you're millions of miles away it's very easy to fire blanks," Shastri told reporters. "They're too far away. We're in the southern hemisphere.

"So when you look at Perth, we felt that he (Jadeja) was maybe 60-70 per cent fit and that we didn't want to risk that in Perth. If he was 80 per cent fit here (in Melbourne), he will play.

"He had taken an injection even in India but he played domestic cricket after that. It took longer than we expected, hence we had to be careful.

"The last thing we wanted was someone breaking down after five or 10 overs and then we are stuck for players to pick for Melbourne or Sydney."

Indian broadcaster Harsha Bhogle called the revelation "disturbing" on Twitter.

However, Shastri's blunt responses provided more questions than answers, according to some cricket commentators. Many reports in the Indian media claimed the coach contradicted Kohli, because the captain said before the Perth Test the inclusion of four seamers was purely because of the conditions in the West Australian capital.

Kohli said even if Ashwin was fully fit the team would likely have gone into the match without a frontline spinner because it was confident the pitch would suit the fast men more.

However, if the real reason behind the four-pronged pace attack was because Jadeja wasn't fit enough to replace Ashwin rather than a burning desire to use four quicks, then the question remains: Why India didn't play left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav?


That the BCCI didn't even mention Jadeja's fitness issues before the second Test makes the mystery even deeper, according to ESPN Cricinfo's Sidharth Monga.

"When the BCCI sent out a media release with a fitness bulletin on eve of the Perth Test, it didn't even include Jadeja's status," Monga wrote. "Despite repeated inquiries about fitness status of all players all the time, the BCCI media management failed to make this situation known.

"If Jadeja was not fully fit and if the team management indeed wanted to play a spinner, they had Kuldeep Yadav in the squad, who was, not long ago, preferred to Jadeja when India played two spinners in the Lord's Test."

Also noted was the fact that despite reportedly not being fit enough to play, according to Shastri, Jadeja was still selected in the 13-man squad and spent significant amounts of time on the Optus Stadium turf as a substitute fielder in Perth.

"More bizarrely, Jadeja, despite the injury, was actively involved in the scheme of things. Since landing in Australia, he played the lone practice game against Cricket Australia XI, bowled 11 overs but didn't bat, bowled tirelessly in the practice sessions, came on as substitute fielder for a cumulative of 45 overs in both Tests combined, was named in the 13-member squad for the Perth Test, and was fielding in the deep, belting out accurate throws," an article in the Indian Express said.

"It's strange for a bowler nursing an injury to be dispatched to the deep, especially where the boundaries are longer than they are in the subcontinent. It stinks of mismanagement."

Ravindra Jadeja of India. Photo / Getty
Ravindra Jadeja of India. Photo / Getty

The same article also cast doubt over the contradictory explanations for not playing a spinner being spouted by Kohli and Shastri.

"Kohli had clearly mentioned that it was the conditions that prompted the four-pacers-no-spinner strategy, while Shastri kept harking on Jadeja's fitness, saying that 'it was their only dilemma' before the Perth Test," the article said.

"It's not the first time that they have contradicted each other's opinions.

"Agreed that Shastri and Kohli might have different perceptions, but one would expect uniformity in matters pertaining to the team."

Monga said the mixed messages from India's captain and coach alluded to an alarming problem in the Indian camp and questioned how Jadeja's health could deteriorate in Australia when he hadn't yet played a Test.

"In what should be a serious question against how the players' injuries are managed, Shastri went on to reveal Jadeja had in fact not been at 100 per cent when he boarded the flight to Australia," Monga wrote.

"India's selections and injury management have both been contentious for a while now. India's last blunder was to play Ashwin when he was not fully fit in Southampton. This time it has come to injury management.

"Would he have been better off going through proper rehab instead of taking injections and bowling in the nets and then fielding for a considerable period of time as a substitute not just in the infield but also in the deep, from where he has to get long throws in?"

The BCCI issued a statement after Shastri's explanation for Jadeja's absence, saying the 30-year-old was fit when he left India but complained of shoulder soreness while playing the warm-up game against the CA XI in Sydney before the first Test in Adelaide.

The conundrum gets murkier still. While Shastri said Jadeja was suffering from his shoulder injury in India, his domestic coach at Saurashtra, Sitanshu Kotak, countered that by claiming the left-arm tweaker was fine when he left for Australia.

"There was no fitness issue at all when he (Jadeja) was playing for Saurashtra. Neither there was any stiffness which you are talking about. Had there been any stiffness or any injury he would have not played Ranji Trophy, or at least he would have told us," Kotak told The Indian Express.

"He joined the team and had two days nets session before our Ranji Trophy game (against Railways) started. He batted and took part in fielding drills. He was present for four days at the ground. His scores will speak for himself, in two innings he bowled. He batted well for us and scored a hundred too."

"If he was feeling any pain or stiffness, do you think he would have bowled so many overs? He was perfectly fit when he was with us. I don't know what happened once he left Saurashtra team. He came to the Ranji Trophy game perfectly fit."

Ravichandran Ashwin (right) shone in the first test. Photo / Getty
Ravichandran Ashwin (right) shone in the first test. Photo / Getty

According to the BCCI's statement, Jadeja received an injection in India on November 2. He then improved to the point he was able to play for Saurashtra without discomfort, but complained of a flare-up after touching down in Australia.

Ashwin remains in a race against time to play at the MCG with India also weighing up whether to fast-track pace-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya into its XI.

The world's No. 1 ranked Test team claimed solitary victories in England and South Africa this year but lost both series and will be desperate to avoid a repeat of that outcome in Australia.

"Third time lucky. That's all I'll say," Shastri quipped.

"It's not often that you find a team these days when they travel overseas where it's 1-1 in a series with two matches to go.

"So the boys know what they can do, what they're capable of and the potential that lies ahead."