Why Ravi Shastri is just what the doctor ordered for Indian cricket - Firstpost
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Why Ravi Shastri is just what the doctor ordered for Indian cricket

Now that Ravi Shastri has officially applied to be head coach of the Indian cricket team, we should go ahead and give him the job.

The man ticks all the boxes and deserves to become coach of the Indian team. For starters, he has been performing this same role since the last 18 months and is only reapplying for his own job. Furthermore, he actively wants the job now, unlike in 2014, when he was appointed director of cricket in a surprise move. Having been part of the team structure, he is familiar with the players and they are with him. And most of them have given him their approval in resounding terms, another big point in his favour.

File image of Ravi Shastri. AFP

File image of Ravi Shastri. AFP

Here's a small sample:

I would like to thank the entire support staff, especially Ravi bhai, who has given us a lot of confidence since he joined the team: Shikhar Dhawan

Ravi Shastri gave us a lot of confidence. He came in a team meeting and said a few words to the team, which were very inspiring: Suresh Raina

He is a guy who does not shy away from responsibility. He is someone who takes the blows on the chin. He keeps moving forward. We would love to have him on board…just to have him around is a big boost for us: Virat Kohli

And the admiration goes both ways. Shastri has repeatedly talked up the team to the press and said his time as team director has been the "most satisfying job" of his carreer. No small claim that. His respect for Kohli is off the charts. His recent comments calling for Kohli to take over as India captain in all formats of the game are only the latest in a long line of compliments he has paid to India's Test captain.

They are also an honest analysis of where Indian cricket stands at the moment. "There no major events for three years, before  we are back with the world cups. So this is your best time to think and build. Also, the time has come where you have a guy who you have groomed over a period of time. Kohli is ready for this," Shastri had said.

These comments are an especially bold move given Mahendra Singh Dhoni's status in Indian cricket. By publically supporting Kohli, he also risks alienating India's ODI and T20 captain and even possibly members of the board who decide who gets the job of head coach.

But the truth of the matter is that Kohli, at 27, is the future of Indian cricket and Dhoni is on his way towards becoming its past. Shastri could have shied away from stating the obvious, which would have been easy to do. Instead, he spoke his mind and showed how much he believes in Kohli, which is just want a captain wants from his coach.

Whether you agree with Shastri or not (and there are plenty of times when disagreeing with him is easy), his outspokenness is something the team also needs. You can count on Shastri to tell a player what is what. He isn't going to worry about egos or reputations. He worries about winning and if a player needs a talking to in the pursuit of victory, then you know Shastri will  talk the talk. The Mumbaikar in him simply won't have it any other way.

Ask any Mumbai Ranji Trophy player who played under Shastri and they will tell you how much they learned from him and how much they admire him. A young Team India that is still finding its feet needs that sort of a personality to push it and mould it into a consistently winning unit. As a tough, uncompromising cricketer who made the most of his talent, Shastri has achieved enough in his career to ensure his voice will be heard.

Besides, it is a journey Shastri has already begun and bringing in a different voice risks creating confusion and sends mixed messages to the players. Had Shastri not wanted the job, it would have been unavoidable. But given his interest, it makes sense not to change jockeys mid-race.

The final test of a coach, of course, is results. Shastri has delivered here too. The team reached the semi-finals of the last two World Cups, thrashed South Africa at home (admittedly with the help of tailor-made pitches) and beat Sri Lanka away from home for the first time in decades, bouncing back from a humiliating collapse in the first Test. And though they lost 2-0 to Australia in Australia, the brand of cricket the team played under Kohli was refreshing and entertaining.

Ravi Shastri is not to everyone's taste. He can be abrasive and at times come across as a BCCI mouthpiece, as someone who simply toes the party line. But he possesses one of India's finest cricketing brains and having grown up in the cauldron that was Bombay cricket, possesses the khadoos attitude that is the hallmark of the city's cricketers. It is the right combination of attributes this India team needs at this time.

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