Indian cricket team coach Ravi Shastri has said that India would find it hard to replace its former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni once he retires.

Dhoni, 37, has been an integral part of the Indian limited-overs side. As the wicket-keeper and the most experienced player in the ODI team, he has often guided captain Virat Kohli in setting up the field and in Decision Review System (DRS).

Amidst criticism of his waning batting prowess, Dhoni made 193 runs, making three 50-plus scores in the three-match series against Australia, which India won 2-1. Twice he took India past the finish line and was adjudged the man of the series.

“You can’t [replace Dhoni],” Shastri told Michael Vaughn in an interview for The Telegraph. “Such players only come once in 30 or 40 years. That is what I tell Indians. Enjoy it while it lasts. When he goes you will see a void that will be very hard to fill.”

Asked about Dhoni’s involvement in the field placement and DRS, Shastri said, “That is because he has the best angle. He sees things. He is great with the guys, they all worship him. This entire team has been built by him because he was captain for 10 years. To have that kind of respect in the dressing room and experience is massive.”

Similarities between Tendulkar and Kohli

The Indian coach said that there are a plenty of similarities between Indian captain Kohli and batting legend Sachin Tendulkar.

“Let’s start with work ethic,” he said. “It is doing the hard yards, looking ugly in the nets and sacrificing important things for your cricket. It is staying in the zone. No excuses. No pointing fingers at others. If you make a mistake, then own up. They do that.”

Shastri also pointed out a difference. “Sachin was very composed and in the zone like MS Dhoni. Virat can be in your face. He is the closest a player has come to Vivian Richards in the way he bats. That ‘in your face’ approach with fast bowlers and any opponent.”

The coach lauded Kohli’s willingness to work hard and “be ugly” in England – where he’d struggled to make runs in 2014 – despite wanting to dominate the bowling. In the 2018 Test series in England, Kohli made 593 runs.

Shastri attributed India’s interest in Test cricket to Kohli’s love for it. “In our country where everything is driven by T20, IPL and one-day cricket to have an individual like him to put the onus on Test cricket more than any format of the game is massive because all the young kids want to emulate [Kohli]. That is the biggest thing to come out of it.”

Creating a culture of fearlessness

As a coach, Shastri said he doesn’t tinker with a player’s game too much. He’s more focused on the player’s mindset than their technique.

“I will bang him on the head if I think he is a p***y or afraid of something. That is when I am at my nastiest. Then I’m not a coach, I am something else,” he said.

“You have to be fearless if you want to play for this team. Fearless means trusting your instincts and clarity of thought. Once you have made up your mind don’t be scared of what if. You would rather get out testing your instincts than being in two minds.”

Shastri added: “You have to think how are we going to win this Test? Who are the guys we are going to back who will play in that fashion for their country? Who is going to be like Australians, who play hard for their country? Be prepared for the battle out there in the middle. My coaching is on those lines.”