CHENNAI: As he starts his third innings in charge of India, Ravi Shastri must be a proud man.
His credentials have been accepted by the panel headed by Kapil Dev. He has a smart record to speak for himself. And the captain has said that it’s him the team wants to be under. Plenty of boxes ticked.
Handed a contract till 2021 T20 World Cup, Shastri has no time to breathe. After West Indies, India have a packed home calendar from September. South Africa, Bangladesh, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Australia, and then a flight to New Zealand.
Non-stop action and scrutiny, something Shastri doesn’t seem to like much.
Due to his impressive record, expectations from Shastri will be more. The Indians have established themselves as one of the best, and the goal now should be becoming undisputed No 1. Money, resources, infrastructure, support staff; what they have is easily among the best in the world. Ergo, more expectations.
Numbers are not the end-all in the assessment of a team or individuals. In this context, it becomes important for Shastri to show the team direction. In his second stint from 2017 to the 2019 World Cup, the chief coach didn’t do much on this front. During the time the team won a number of matches, it also overlooked loose ends, especially in the batting department. Despite two years under Shastri without any external interference, holes in the middle-order kept getting wider because the problem was not addressed on time.
This is not limited to one-dayers. The body language of players changed. The team gave positive vibes. But in Tests too, middle-order and opening problems remain. An obsession to make changes in the XI in almost every match is a reason why the batting continues to look unsettled. After showing an inclination for players who score at a fast clip, it took Virat Kohli and Shastri a long time to show faith in Cheteshwar Pujara. The Test specialist’s place was not certain until the last series, in Australia earlier this year.
Results are important, but development of resources is also a yardstick for the evaluation of a coach. That’s been done on the fast-bowling front, but batting in all formats tells a different story. The team still doesn’t know what the middle-order or opening combination will be in Tests. If members of the think tank ask themselves what they have done to instill confidence in the players tried in these positions, they might not get a satisfactory answer.
Then, there has also been a tendency to talk through the roof. The 57-year-old must realise that motivating players by speaking highly of them is something, and asking the world to believe what he says of them is something else. There is reason to think that he has realised this part. That’s possibly a reason he refrained from making any comment in front of the media during the World Cup. With the establishment again reposing faith in him, it becomes imperative for Shastri to tick new boxes and aim higher.