After taking over from Anil Kumble in 2017, Shastri as the head coach helped the Indian team consolidate their No. 1 position in the ICC Test rankings.
On the face of it, Ravi Shastri’s re-appointment as the head coach of the Indian team was a mere formality. During the 20-minute video-calling interaction though, the ad-hoc Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) members, Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy, asked the former India allrounder some pointed questions.
After taking over from Anil Kumble in 2017, Shastri as the head coach helped the Indian team consolidate their No. 1 position in the ICC Test rankings. Over the past two seasons, India had 71% win-rate across formats. Then again, India lost Test series in South Africa and England and although they had a memorable series victory in Australia last winter, the Aussies were depleted. They missed their top three stars—David Warner, Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc—for different reasons.
The CAC headed by Dev asked Shastri about those overseas Test losses. The Committee also asked him about India’s knockout slip-ups at the ICC events. India had lost to West Indies in the 2016 World T20 semifinal, when Shastri was the team director. A year previously, they had gone down to Australia in the 2015 World Cup last-four. The defeat to New Zealand in this year’s World Cup semifinal was worse, for it happened due to the Indian team management’s failure to fix the middle-order muddle. Too many experiments were done at No. 4 and 5 at the expense of stability. So when the Kiwis rolled over the Indian top-order at Old Trafford, the middle-order wasn’t ready to face the fire, Ravindra Jadeja’s firefight notwithstanding.
And yet, Shastri’s job wasn’t in danger because he had his captain’s backing. Virat Kohli publicly endorsed Shastri’s candidature during the pre-departure press conference for the tour of West Indies. “The CAC hasn’t contacted me yet. If they want my opinion, I will go and speak to them. With Ravi bhai, we share a great camaraderie, and will definitely be very happy if he continues. But I haven’t been contacted so far,” the India captain had said.
During the coach selection process on Friday, Shastri emerged as the unanimous choice, although the CAC didn’t take the opinion of the captain. “The opinion of the captain wasn’t taken. Otherwise we would have had to take the opinions of the entire Indian team. We didn’t consult Virat Kohli, else we would have asked the entire team. We did not ask anyone,” Dev said at the presser.
A rating system was used for coach selection. Coaching philosophy, experience of coaching, achievements in coaching, communication and knowledge of modern coaching tools had been the areas of consideration. Shastri trumped his nearest rival, New Zealand’s Mike Hesson. The latter seriously impressed the CAC members, but Shastri’s “familiarity with the system” did the trick. His new stint will involve two World T20s, in 2020 and 2021, and also the ongoing World Test Championship. India have won 13 out of 21 Tests, 43 out of 60 ODIs and 25 T20 internationals out of 36, with Shastri in charge. But a World Cup/World T20 triumph is what the Indian fans covet. Also, now that he has a new contract and a second innings, Shastri’s challenge would be to step out of Kohli’s shadow.
During a recent conversation with an IPL franchise CEO, this correspondent had asked if coaches have a shelf life. His reply was: “I don’t think so, as long as a coach can reinvent.” Shastri’s methods are popular with the majority of the Indian team players but he now has the job to take the side to the next level. Speaking to the BCCI’s official website, Shastri has stressed upon ushering in a “smooth transition” over the next two years.
“Next two years is to see the smooth transition happening. You will get a lot of youngsters coming in, both white-ball setup and Tests. You need to identify another three-four bowlers to add to the pool by the end of our tenure. My endeavour by the end of this tenure would be to leave the team in a happier space so that they can set a legacy in the time to come. The reason why I came in here is the belief I had in this team, the belief that they could leave a legacy which very few teams have left behind which other teams going down will try and emulate,” he said.
Shastri has had a tendency toward hyperbole. Calling the present Indian side the country’s “best travelling team in the last 15 years” was a case in point. He plays the “consistency” card well. “The team has been superbly consistent. If you look at the performances over the last two years, it’s been simply outstanding,” Shastri told bcci.tv.
The World Cup semifinal loss to New Zealand, however, showed the team’s vulnerability under pressure. Collectively, they should raise the bar. India haven’t won anything major on the global stage after the 2013 Champions Trophy.