Ravi Shastri had unformidable names to contend with in order to be reappointed as India head coach last week so it was no surprise the Kapil Dev-led committee decided in his favour. While many fans are still grumpy over India’s semi-final defeat by New Zealand at the World Cup last month, the truth is Shastri had done the job in the main and deserved another go.
That India continue featuring in the top-ranked sides in both Tests – where they have been number one for a while – and ODIs speaks a great deal about Shastri’s credentials as head coach. After Anil Kumble’s sour exit in June 2017 and Shastri assuming the helm, India have won 11 Tests out of 21 and 44 ODIs out of 60 and 25 T20Is out of 35. Yes, they have been right up there.
So going by his record, it was the right decision on the part of the committee to re-elect him. However, not everything was right during Shastri’s previous stint. Keeping aside his cock-sureness that many find distasteful and that fact he may have played a role in the ouster of Kumble following the 2017 Champions Trophy, he failed to groom youngsters to the team’s requirement. For example even before the World Cup started, India had no idea who their number four would be and they played the entire tournament with less clarity and more uncertainty. Clearly, in the preceding two years there was little work and foresight and Shastri should take the blame.
Yes, India claimed a historic first Test series win against Australia in Australia and a massive ODI series win against the Proteas in South Africa but like players, coaches also are remembered by how they fare at the ICC events.
Remember the talk before the 2011 World Cup… that without that trophy Sachin Tendulkar’s career couldn’t assume the grand proportions it had!
So Shastri has just missed out on that grand claim.
The question now is what new things Shastri could bring to the table. For starters, he would do well to put his money where his mouth is. If the talk is grand and the result is not, fans could be irreconcilable. It will also be great if he could stop “finding too many positives” in defeats.
The good aspect of his re-appointment however is that players in the team like him to the point of adoration, including captain Virat Kohli who has made no bones about this “liking” several times. It’s no small thing, the coach has to be likeable or things can fall apart uncontrollably.
To be honest, at the advanced stage that Indian cricket is presently, any coach would have done for the team in the current system but Shastri’s familiarity with the players and theirs with Shastri was a thing that couldn’t have been possibly overlooked. However the biggest flipside of often such relations are that things may be taken for granted by both parties.
Be that as it may, Shastri will be under the scanner this time like never before. The benefit of the doubt he got previously after India fared badly in certain matches is unlikely to be entertained by fans this time.
Two biggest challengers face Shastri in the face as of now: the new-born Test championship and the 2021 World T20, the latter of which will be end of Shastri’s tenure as per the contract as of now, which means he has less than two years to atone for India’s World Cup exit in England and Wales.
Indian fans are nowadays are not as easily satiable as they were in the past. Unimportant series wins won’t please them much and unless India do well – which means win the Test championship at least – Shastri can’t ingratiate himself with them. His beer-guzzling lifestyle out in the open still irks many of the traditionalists. Hope he is ready to endure and succeed in what is likely to be a period of ultra-scrutiny for him.