Former India head coach Ravi Shastri says players will and should longer breaks from the game if needed as the bubble life takes it toll and backed the need for split captaincy in Covid times.

Shastri’s tenure with the Indian team ended with an early exit from T20 World Cup.

Shastri also expected Virat Kohli to prioritise formats in the future but remained open-ended on how long he expects the current ODI and Test captain to remain in charge.

Kohli, who has taken rest for the T20 series and one Test against New Zealand to recover bubble fatigue in COVID times, has relinquished captaincy in the shortest format after the showpiece event.

Speaking to India Today, Shastri was asked about Kohli giving up captaincy in other formats to manage his workload better.

“In red ball cricket, India have been number one for the last five years under his captaincy. Unless, he wants to give it up or he is mentally fatigued where he says he wants to focus on my batting which can happen in the near future [he will carry on],” the former India allrounder said.

“It wont happen immediately but it can happen. The same might happen with white ball cricket, he might say he had enough and he focuses on Test captaincy. It is his mind and body that will make that decision. He won’t be the first. A lot of successful players have given up captaincy to focus on their batting for their side.”

Shastri said Kohli remains the fittest cricketer in the team by far.

“He is hungry for sure, fitter than anybody in the team. No doubt about that. When you are physically that fit, your longevity only increases. On the captaincy part of it, it will be his decision but I see if anything he might say no to white ball cricket but red ball, he should carry on because he has been the best ambassador for the test cricket. That will make him carry on,” said Shastri.

Shastri also foresees many players in the team, including Kohli taking long breaks to recover from bubble fatigue. He also spoke on the relevance of split captaincy in COVID times.

“Especially, in these times it will reduce the pressure on the individual. A lot of players will take breaks. I foresee lot of plays wanting breaks and rightly so. You need to switch off from the game from time to time.”

Shastri reiterated that playing World Cup right after IPL was not ideal for the team but didn’t want to blame BCCI as the re-scheduling happened because of COVID-19.

“I won’t say that but because IPL was cancelled in April, they had no choice. But I don’t think that will happen in the future. Kapil is right about the scheduling part because it will take its toll,” he said when asked to comment on Kapil Dev’s statement on players prioritising IPL over country, agreeing with his former captain’s need for better scheduling.

“It is not just the BCCI, every board has to be careful on scheduling. Don’t forget, we play more cricket than any other team in the world, if you add the IPL.”

Shastri however vehemently denied that players put IPL before the Indian team, saying only “fools” would do that and did not entertain that theory.

New Zealand and Australia face in the final on Sunday and Shastri hinted that two of the freshest teams have managed to go the distance.

“The teams that are playing in the final on Sunday, they have hardly played in the last 6 months and you can see the difference. They have played enough to keep themselves sharp but they have got enough round of rest, at times forced as well,” Shastri said.

While reiterating that this Indian team will go down as one of the greatest of all time across formats, Shastri said he had no regrets from his time in the dressing. Missing out on an ICC title was a disappointment, he said but not a regret, but made a special mention for not being able to win the World Test Championship final. Perhaps the one that got away.

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With PTI inputs