Ravi Shastri, who completed his highly eventful tenure as India’s head coach, feels that Rohit Sharma is “ready and capable” to take over the T20 captaincy from Virat Kohli and sharing the leadership burden isn’t such a bad idea in a post-Covid-19 world.
Rohit, who will be taking over T20 captaincy from the New Zealand series, is also being tipped to lead India in the 2023 ODI World Cup and the formal announcement in that regard may happen sooner than later.
Shastri is convinced that despite their indifferent performance in this edition of T20 World Cup, India will continue to be a very strong T20 team in near future.
Here are the excerpts from his final press conference as India head coach:
First of all, congratulations on a great, great tenure. My first question is what is the best thing to happen in this Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri era? It could be development or anything you wish to answer.
RAVI SHASTRI: Just the quality of cricket this team has played over the last five years across all formats. The performances are there for everyone to see. When you perform in that fashion where you go across the globe, across all formats and beat teams, then you know you’re part of one great cricket team.
I’m not saying a great cricket team India, I’m saying one of the great cricket teams in the history of the game. Because if you look at those kind of performances, they don’t happen often. You’ve got to have a bunch of players who are fit, hungry, fearless, have the quality, have the belief, and then to stay fit so you can play those five years together and go across the globe and perform everywhere.
I mean, if you look at – if you want the real highlights, nothing beats Australia. England, we’re up in the series. It will be the longest time we’ll be up in the series until next year. I might be commentating on that game for all you know, but I’ll keep that one area. It feels good.
White ball, everywhere. You beat the West Indies in the West Indies. You beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, good teams. All around, it’s been fabulous. Yes, we are disappointed in the result in the first two games here.
Let’s be honest, I’m not here to make any sort of excuses. We lacked the daring in the second game against New Zealand. I know the toss was important, and as you’ve seen in the last three games how important it is. And I do feel it will continue to be important though not as much now as the weather has cooled down a bit.
But still, it’s something for the boys to learn. They’ll get an opportunity again next year. It’s not often you have World Cups in 12 months. So hopefully, they’ll go and kick some butt there.
Q. Hi, Coach. We’ve often heard this team say that they have each other’s backs and often seen them stand up for each other in criticism. Is it something you saw organically develop in this outfit, or is it something you and Virat actively worked towards achieving?
RAVI SHASTRI: We actively worked towards it. We wanted trust in that dressing room. That’s the only way you can get each other’s back. We needed communication. We wanted no finger pointing at each other. We needed the word I to be thrown into the dustbin and the word we coming in. And we created a culture that had to be obeyed and followed.
With Virat leading the way, he’s been one of the great ambassadors for the games, especially when you look at red ball cricket, the way he’s embraced it. And it’s allowed other players on the team to follow suit. You’ve got to give credit where it’s due.
So it’s a team culture, which was impressed upon the team to follow, and they followed it to the hilt. They played fearless cricket round the globe.
One thing I would say – this is not an excuse, but this is a fact. When you’re six months in a bubble, this team, there are a lot of players on this team who play all three formats of the game. In the last 24 months, they’ve been home for 25 days. I don’t care who you are, if your name is Bradman, if you’re in a bubble as well, your average will come down because you’re human.
This is not something where you just put petrol on the back side and expect the guy to move on in overdrive. It doesn’t happen that way. So I think it’s tough times. That’s why I say in life it’s not what you accomplish, it’s what you overcome. That’s what this team has done. They’ve shown the drive to hang in there, no complaints.
But sooner or later, the bubble will burst. So you’ve got to be careful.
Q. You touched upon the bubble factor. Just taking that on, from a management perspective, did you try and reach out to the administration in order to possibly get some sort of a break for some of these guys ahead of the World Cup? Or is it impractical to expect a World Cup being prioritised to IPL? I understand the times –
RAVI SHASTRI: That’s not my job, first of all. That is something the administrator, not just from India, it is the others around the globe who will also be looking at it before big tournaments to ensure that there is a little bit of gap so that the guys are made fresh and ready to play.
Q. And in the last five years, have you actively worked on or has it met with resistance wherein if a player actually wants a break, he can raise his hand and come back and have his place back?
RAVI SHASTRI: Absolutely. The communication has been free. We’ve managed players, especially with the training methods and everything. One thing, we were never short on communication. Everyone was free to speak. No one was treated as a junior. There were no seniors and juniors on this side. Everyone had the freedom to express himself.
I think it’s been one heck of a journey for me personally. I know it’s my last day in the dressing room. I just spoke to the boys. But I’d like to thank the BCCI for giving me this opportunity, believing that I could do the job, and I wish the coach coming after me all the luck.
I must thank in this also all the committees that were there in picking me as the coach. We’ve all tried on this team for some time in the series. I would like to thank all of them because they were all part of the journey. But one man I would like to give special mention to. His name is N. Srinivasan. He was the man who insisted I do this job in 2014. In fact, I didn’t have the belief I could do this job. He seemed to have more belief in my ability than I had. I hope I haven’t let him down.
If you’re listening, I got the opportunity, and I did my work without any agenda.
Q. Do you agree that Indian cricket is a little too obsessed with work-ups and winning Tests in England and Australia or from any ICC titles?
RAVI SHASTRI: I wouldn’t know how to answer that. For me, everything is important. If you’re playing a big tournament, a big series, you play to win. So it’s not happened this time, but it will happen another time for this team. They’re far too talented not to get something going or get something and a big trophy in the hands soon, just like they did if Australia twice. Up in England now, the way they played white-ball cricket in bilateral series.
So somewhere down the line, things should go their way. The rub of the grain should go their way.
Q. Ravi, a word on Bharat Arun’s contribution as bowling coach of this Indian team. What we have seen post-2018 since that tour of South Africa and the kind of bowling unit that this team has kind of gone on to put in place, arguably the best in the world. Finest probably one of the bowling attacks that India has seen. Your thoughts on that.
RAVI SHASTRI: I call him the guru of that department. Him and Sridhar have done an outstanding job. I’ll come first to Bharat Arun. He’s been in the coaching space for 20 years now, if not more. Not only that, but he’s coached a lot of coaches. He’s conducted a lot of courses. He’s certified a lot of coaches. Then come to do this job.
That’s the prime reason I picked him because I wanted to pick people from my stable, which is the NCL, and I happen to be the chairman there for some time. When a system was put in place, that’s the time that guys like Sridhar and Arun came into the fore with Dav Whatmore.
His biggest class point is his ability to communicate with the bowlers. He will not change anyone’s technique for the sake of it unless he has a solution, unless he explains to the guy why he should do it. For the sake of doing it, he won’t.
He has instant professionalism in the unit by his communication skills to let them know that this is what we expect from a bowling team, not a bowling individual. That is not easy. So that is something specific that he did. He ensured that that happened.
Then I’ll go to Sridhar, who I think is one of the best fielding coaches in the world. He’s outstanding. All I had to tell him was I want this to be one of the best Indian fielding sides ever. That was my dictate to him, and I said in every match I want to see the bar raised. There was no messing around. It had to be done.
Similarly, with Arun, as far as professionalism came to bowling as a unit. It took time, but it happened. Hence the results.
Q. Are there any particular areas that you see India’s T20 team needing to improve looking ahead to the next World Cup? And the next one, with Virat’s decision to give up T20 captaincy, they’ll have separate captains for separate formats, how do you see that panning out?
RAVI SHASTRI: I think it’s not such a bad thing because of the bubble and because of the amount of cricket being played. The players need to be rotated around and given the space they need to spend some time with their families, see their parents. Like I said, when a guy doesn’t go home for six months, he might have his family with him, but if he’s got parents and other family and you don’t get a chance to see them, it’s not easy at all.
So I think it’s not such a bad thing. I think in Rohit you’ve got a very capable guy. He’s won so many IPLs. He’s the vice captain of this side. He’s waiting in the wings to take that job.
As far as the T20 team goes, I think we’ll always have a strong team. We might not have won this World Cup, but I think going forward we’ll continue to have a strong team because the IPL throws a lot of young players into the mix. Rahul will have his own ideas on how to take this team forward, and I see it still being a very good team.
Q. Looking at Hardik Pandya, how it panned out during this World Cup, do you see a space for a few more all-rounders so there’s not much overdependence, preferably one guy like Hardik Pandya?
RAVI SHASTRI: I think it always helps when you have one or two players in the top order who can bowl. We’ve always had that in the past. Unfortunately, we don’t have too many now. So that might be the way to go, to ensure that in the top six you have a couple of guys who can roll their arm over. Even if it’s four overs between them, that will help.
Q. In the lead-up to the 2016 T20 World Cup, the Indian team played a lot of series together. They had a lot of time to get the team to play together in a lot of series. That’s something that’s not happened before this particular event. Do you think that has had an impact on the performances? They have played IPL, but it’s not been together?
RAVI SHASTRI: The cricket itinerary is so packed that you can only do one thing at a time. At least they played some T20 cricket in the IPL. I just wish the gap was a little more. That’s it.
Q. What is the one thing that you’re going to miss going forward? And what is one thing that you think was missing during your tenure?
RAVI SHASTRI: I don’t look at the missing parts. I look at the part – there were ten missing parts when I took the job. Now there are only two or one. Someone else can fill it in the future. I’m happy with the nine I got. I would have been very disappointed if I had filled only two parts and eight were vacant.
Q. Coach, you have seen some great highs and lows as well in your career. But on an emotional quotient, how emotional is this particular day for you?
RAVI SHASTRI: Very emotional because I’ve been part of this team for seven years. They’re a great side. I’m telling you, I don’t say that too often. It’s one of the great sides to have played cricket at the highest level in the history of the game, when you look all around. So let’s not take anything away from that.
For me to be part of that journey with the boys and for the boys to respond and raise the bar in that fashion leaves you going from the dressing room emotional but a very proud man.
Transcript courtesy: ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.
With PTI inputs.