As expected, Ravi Shastri has retained his job as India’s head coach. There were few strong contenders such as Tom Moody to replace Shastri, but the former Indian cricketer was handed the job as he has the backing of Indian skipper Virat Kohli. However, the BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee, who was given the responsibility of choosing the coach, may not specifically claim so. Shastri has been given a two-year extension until the 2021 T20 World Cup in India.
Nevertheless, Shastri has not done badly since his tenure as a full-time coach in 2017. Shastri took over the job after Anil Kumble quit due to ‘irreparable differences with Kohli’ post the 2017 Champions Trophy final loss.
Since then, Shastri and Kohli seem to have gelled well together as coach-captain and taken India to the top of world cricket across all formats.
But can Ravi Shastri lead India to further glory?
Can Shastri coach India to an ICC title that has been missing in India’s cupboards since 2013?
For the records, India last won a major ICC title in 2013 Champions Trophy under MS Dhoni. Since then, India have lost five ICC knockout matches.
But first, let’s focus on Shastri’s achievements since 2017
Shastri’s success as a coach
India have won the historic and maiden Test series Down Under. India have been the No 1 Test team in the world for two years. They have also been in top 3 in limited-overs cricket during Shastri’s tenure.
India have also not been whitewashed in overseas Test series in England and South Africa as has been the norm earlier. They won a Test each in these two countries, although they lost the series.
In limited-overs cricket, they won the Asia Cup, Nidahas Trophy and maintained an enviable record in bilateral series except against England in England where they lost the ODI series 1-2 and the T20I series in New Zealand 1-2.
Shastri’s records as India’s coach across formats
But it was not at all hunky-dory for India in the last two years.
Here are the challenges Shastri face in his new tenure as coach
No 4 woes
They struggled for a stable No 4 in limited-overs cricket throughout the two years under Shastri. India tried numerous players, but could not fix one person for the role. The No 4 is still open despite Shastri, Kohli working on the problem for two years. Can they get it right this time?
The MS Dhoni issue
Both Shastri and Dhoni have backed Dhoni when he has clearly struggled with the bat. His slow batting and falling strike rate created pressure in the middle, leading India to lose momentum. But neither Shastri nor Kohli has taken the lead to inform Dhoni that his time is up.
They want selectors to do the job, while the selectors find themselves in a tricky situation to call the legend off. MSD is too making his case difficult with below-par performances. Can Shastri solve the MSD problem once and for all?
The choker’s tag
Well, India can be the new chokers in big tournaments. Since the 2013 Champions Trophy win, India have lost as many as five big knockout matches. They lost 2014 World T20 final, World Cup 2015 semis, 2016 World T20 semis, 2017 CT final, and 2019 World Cup semis. Can India turn it around in the next ICC tournament?
Advantages of Shastri as coach
As Kohli enjoys big clout in Indian cricket, the CAC presumably didn’t think right to run the skipper the wrong way by not retaining Shastri as a coach. And Kohli has especially made his intention clear he would like Shastri to continue.
Shastri and Kohli share a great rapport and enjoy other’s company. Shastri brings a cool and calm atmosphere in the dressing room, which let players play stress-free. Kohli and Shastri also have same working styles that let them feed off each other. Shastri takes a back seat and lets Kohli hog the limelight, which the Indian skipper enjoy doing.
During Kumble’s reign as coach, the former Indian leg-spinner was a hard task-master and made players come out of their comfort zones, which didn’t please Kohli and his players. Hence, Kumble has to make a quick exit.
But Kohli-Shastri pair are like a married couple who may have disagreements, but eventually, they stick to each other.
Also, Shastri’s staying back as the coach will let India breathe easy and carry forward the good work done so far while working on the weaknesses to make India the world-class team across all formats.
Disadvantages of Shastri as coach
Shastri is considered a puppet in the hands of Kohli. It’s said Shastri agrees to whatever the captain decides. Hence, Kohli is able to gain significant clout in Indian cricket. Kohli has his say in team combinations while Shastri just backs him. If it’s so, then it’s a dangerous trend in Indian cricket as the captain cannot be bigger than the team.
This is clear in the team’s combination.
Kohli preferring Rohit Sharma over Ajinkya Rahane in Tests when the latter is a proven performer in the longer format speaks volume of Kohli’s dominance. Shastri seems to work behind the curtains and let Kohli takes all the decision, even it may be juvenile and illogical.
The danger of Shastri continuing as a coach is that there’s no one to keep the Indian players on their toes and out of their comfort zone. There is no one to bring in fresh ideas and solve problems that have been hurting India for the last couple of years.
Questions ahead of Shastri-Kohli pair
Will Kohli-Shastri resolve the No 4 woes, retire MSD, and reverse the choker’s tag? Or, it will continue as it has been going on for the last few years.
If the two can resolve this, then they would end up as the best coach-captain the cricket world would have seen. Their biggest test will come in 2020 World T20.
Can India reverse the choker’s tag?
Can India maintain their status as No 1 team and win the World Test Championship?
And then can India win on Indian soil again in 2021 World T20?
The next two years will be crucial for Indian cricket and Shastri-Kohli pair.