The wait is finally over and Ravi Shastri has become the new coach for the Indian men’s cricket team. He prevailed over other candidates such as Richard Pybus, Tom Moody, and Lalchand Rajput. As of now, Shastri has been made the coach for two years till 2019 World Cup. He will have assistance in the form of Zaheer Khan, who will play the role of bowling consultant till that time, and Rahul Dravid, who will work as batting coach for overseas tours. This is the second term of Shastri at the helm of the national men’s cricket team. He had previously served as team director from 2014 to 2016.
Reasons for selection
One of the major reasons for Shastri’s selection is his record as team director. He took control of the team following a tough period in 2014. His tenure started with a fantastic display against Australia where the team played aggressively in spite of losing in the series. This was when Kohli became the captain in tests. After that the team progressed till the finals of the ensuing tri-series and reached the semifinals of the 2015 World Cup. The team also defeated New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa at home, defeated Australia in ODIs over there, won the Asia Cup T20 and reached the semifinals of World T20 at home. It was under him that the team reached the no. 1 spot in test cricket and stayed there for eight straight weeks in 2016.
What also needs to be considered in this case is the immense support that Shastri has from various quarters of the team including Virat Kohli, who has pressed strongly for his inclusion. In fact, Kohli wanted to work with him again to such an extent that he was willing to not even listen to the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), which wanted him to mend fences with Anil Kumble and keep working together. Shastri is known to be a great man manager and that has gone in his favour as well.
Challenges as coach
India is entering a grueling two year period as a team that will culminate with the 2019 World Cup. It will immediately play a full series in Sri Lanka, followed by a one day series against Australia at home. In January and February 2018, the team would be touring South Africa for a full series followed by a full series against Sri Lanka at home. It will play Asia Cup in June 2018 followed by a full away tour to England. It will then host West Indies for a full series at home and then go to Australia for 4 tests. 2019 would start with a limited overs tour to New Zealand and then host Australia for a long limited overs tour. This will be followed by a short series against Zimbabwe at home before the 2019 World Cup happens. So, as may be seen, there is plenty of cricket to be played by the team and the coaching staff will have its hands full.
Roles and responsibilities as a coach
One of the major complaints that Kohli, and perhaps the team as well, had against Kumble was that he was too strict and officious. At times when he was dissatisfied with the team’s performance or with someone in specific he was not averse to making his displeasure known in rather unsavoury ways. In fact, a board official also said that he had scolded a few members of the team following the chastising defeat against Pakistan at the Champions Trophy final. This is where Shastri is expected to provide a breath of fresh air as he is known to let the team members chart their own course even as he acts as a facilitator and an encouraging father figure. He will be expected to keep the team’s spirit up, something that Kohli feels is more important at this stage rather than consistent inputs on how to play and prepare. He feels that both he and the team need more space and that Shastri will be expected to provide – a happy dressing room that was not perhaps there during Kumble’s era and one that would help India in the tough days to come.