It's been a topsy-turvey period for Indian cricket of late. While they have been doing a decent job on field, it's the off-field fiasco's that have dominated the headlines. Firstly, there was the Anil Kumble-Virat Kohli fall out that brought to light the problems inside the dressing room and then there was the coach and support staff selection drama played out amidst the BCCI-COA-CAC chaos.
Kohli finally got his preferred option with Ravi Shastri's reunion while the former India all-rounder had his say with the appointment of Bharat Arun as the bowling coach. Sanjay Bangar was elevated to the assistant coach position from batting coach while R Sridhar was retained as fielding coach.
The Sri Lanka tour marks the start of a challenging season for India as they are set to play South Africa, England and Australia away from home in the next one year. And Shastri, in his typical flamboyant style, stressed upon the fact that the focus should be on the team and not the support staff and they need to be given the credit they deserve.
"The team has done exceedingly well over the last three years and they are the people who deserve the credit more than anybody else," Shastri said in the pre-departure conference in Mumbai. "These Ravi Shastris, Anil Kumbles will come and go, (but) the fabric of the Indian cricket will remain and the credit should go to everyone who's participated in this Indian team over the past three years. If they are number one today, its their efforts that they have out in over the three years and they deserve the credit. People like us will come and go,” the former India captain added.
Shastri was also very vocal when asked about the appointment of Bharat Arun as the bowling coach. He insisted that Arun is the right man for the job and under his previous stint, the Indian bowlers have done exceedingly well.
“Look at his track record,” Shastri said, at the top of his voice. “It’s outstanding. He’s been a coach for 15 years and has been part of the system right from the A teams, junior World Cup teams. He knows these boys better than I do. If you look at the 2015 World Cup (when Arun was the bowling coach), India took 77 out of the possible 80 wickets. If Bharat Arun’s name was someone else who played a lot of Tests, you would have put him on top of the tree.”
Shastri was appointed the director of the Indian team in 2014 when India were going through a turbulent period and he breathed life into the side as India won in Sri Lanka after 22 years and after seven win-less overseas series, which included six series defeats. Later, India thumped South Africa 3-0 in home Test series and reached semi-finals of 2015 World Cup and 2016 World T20.
Despite doing well in his two-year term, the BCCI overlooked Shastri in favour Anil Kumble last year after Shastri's term ended in 2016.
Shastri was a key part of the Sri Lanka tour in 2015 which in Kohli's words, was a 'landmark' one for India and his captaincy in particular. The 55-year-old said that he's changed a lot in these two years and doesn't carry a bad taste after being ignored for the position of head coach last year.
"I have matured since I last went to Sri Lanka and I have matured immensely in the last two weeks. Mine will be a refresh button that will be pushed and I carry on from where I left. I don’t come with any baggage," Shastri said.
With the India captain pretty much getting his preferred support staff, Kohli said there there is no pressure on him to deliver following a fall out with Kumble and expected a smooth ride with Shastri despite Ganguly's blunt mesage saying the India captain would need to understand how coaches operated.
"We have worked together for three years – 2014-16. So there should be that kind of understanding (between us), which you can also understand," Kohli said when asked whether he would be able to understand the coach and coaching style much better given that he had been given his preferred support staff. "So I don’t think that I need to understand anything new about (coach and support staff) in this scenario. As I have already said, we have worked earlier also, we know what’s expected, what’s going on and what has worked earlier for us. So I don’t think it will require any effort to understand (the coach) as we have worked earlier also," the 28-year-old added.
The Kohli-Kumble rift brought to light the lack of communication between the captain and the coach with even reports emerging that the two were not in speaking terms for over seven months. While Kohli's words on his partnership with Shastri provide positive vibes for Indian cricket, Shastri stressed on the importance of helping the players have an uncluttered mind.
"When you play the game, you want your mind clear. You want to be able to focus inwards without a care in the world for anything on the outside. And that happens with good communication with the support staff," Shastri said.
"Now I will go on the other side as head coach, my job is to do exactly that with every player – to put in a frame of mind that he is thinking only about his role, he is thinking about his team that he is playing for. And of course the opposition which we always respect, and that’s is his job, period," Shastri signed off.