India coach Ravi Shastri rubbished talks of a rift between skipper Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma following the team’s semi-final defeat to New Zealand in the World Cup in July.
Sharma subsequently didn’t feature in the two-match Test series against West Indies, which Kohli and Co won comprehensively, which led to further speculation of the two senior pros not seeing eye to eye.
“Listen, I have been around the dressing room for the last five years. I have seen how the boys have played and how they have complemented the team and know their work ethic. I feel it is absolute nonsense,” Shastri was quoted as saying by Gulf News.
Shastri went on to explain the camaraderie that Kohli and Sharma share in the middle. The 57-year-old said: “I have been there with them and I know the way they play. If that was the case why would Rohit get five hundreds in the World Cup? Why would Virat do what he is doing? How would they have partnerships together.”
Shastri, however, said that he welcomes different opinions from his players to the one Kohli shares.
“In a side when you have 15 players, there will always be times when there will be opinions that will be different. That is what is needed,” Shastri said.
He added, “I don’t want everyone toeing the same line. You have got to have discussions and someone might then think of a fresh strategy which has to be encouraged. So you have to give the guys the opportunity to express themselves and then decide what is best.”
It was during the West Indies series – where India didn’t lose a single game across all three formats – that Shastri got a two-year extension as a coach.
Shastri said: “There is a comfort factor for the boys with the support staff [bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach R Sridhar]. They know the players as we have been with each other for five years. The new players can also adapt and adjust quickly. When you have continuity, it does help.”
Shastri reserved words of praise for pacer Jasprit Bumrah’s meteoric rise. The 25-year-old, in Jamaica, became only the third Indian to take a Test hat-trick and now has five-wicket hauls in South Africa, England, Australia and West Indies in a 12-match Test career.
“Unbelievable,” said Shastri. “He is a terrific competitor, takes a lot of pride in his performance and it is amazing to see where he has reached in 18 months of cricket.
“He played in South Africa last year, his first Test in January, 19 months down the line what he has done across all formats is unbelievable. His two spells in the West Indies were mind-boggling.”
India’s next assignment is at home against South Africa. The two teams face off at Dharamshala for the first Twenty20 International on September 15.