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Captain is the boss of the team: Ravi Shastri

Team India Head Coach reflects on the series win, the camaraderie in the dressing room, upcoming challenges and more….

There is conviction in his thoughts, an air of confidence and positivity around him, which he carries with pride. He can be your best friend off the cricket field and at the same time one of the best guides on it.

After being with the team for 18 months as the Director, Ravi Shastri returned as the Head Coach of the team ahead of India’s tour of Sri Lanka.

India registered an emphatic win over Sri Lanka, completing a historic 3-0 clean sweep in an away Test series.

The Indian dressing is exhibiting confidence for the tasks ahead after securing a thumping 4-0 lead in the ongoing ODI series.

In a freewheeling chat with BCCI.TV, Team India Head Coach reflects on the series win, upcoming opportunities and more….


Excerpts 

Sir, Congratulations on the series win. We get a sense that you have used the Sri Lanka tour as a drawing board for the upcoming challenges. Your thoughts.

For me, every tour is a challenge. The boys know that right from my stint earlier, I’m someone who respects all oppositions. And we like to live in the present and the job at present was to do the job the way we have done. We were striving for consistency and levels of competence, which will help us down the line and we have achieved that. There is a room for improvement. You know you always have to look to improve and I’m sure the boys are fully aware of that and they’ll be up for it.

We have seen extended training sessions and simultaneously heard the laughter in the dressing room, which makes the dressing room a happy place. What do you think makes Ravi Shastri the most desired coach by the players?

I wouldn’t say that I am the most desired coach. That is for the players to say. All I’ll say is that I like to keep things simple. I am a big switch on and switch off person. I’m a huge guy when it comes to work ethics and values. As far as the team is concerned, the trust factor that exists in the dressing room, the camaraderie between the players and the support staff, like Virat has mentioned, there is no senior or junior in the team because everyone’s a team player and everyone has to contribute.

We’ve seen that in our team. The most experienced player like the former Captain MS Dhoni, he is a wonderful team man. Any youngster can approach him at any stage, in the same capacity any youngster can approach the Captain or me as the Head Coach or anyone in the support staff. That kind of camaraderie is there. If you don’t have that kind of sharing, you will not have that kind of trust. That is paramount and like we said the dressing room for us is the place. What happens in the dressing room and what’s discussed there will always stay there.

One of the key highlights of this tour has been assigning specific roles to the players and helping them feel secure and wanted. Your thoughts.

I have always said that in a team game if you don’t know what your role is, and when I say team, look at it in any walk of life, why just the cricket field. If a person is designated a role and you will see different roles for different people in a team, if they do their roles to the best of their ability, you will see the team performing wonderfully well. But if a person doesn’t know his role, then there is no clarity of thought. There is confusion and you can’t get the best out of that man’s ability. Designating a role and helping him make sure that he does the job well; that is our job. Making him feel relaxed and in a state of mind where he can go and express himself without any fear. That is the role of the support staff.

Both as a cricketer and now as a coach, you love taking the bull by the horns. Don’t you?

I have always been that way. For me - what you see is what you’ll get. I always like to call a spade a spade and people who have played with me know me fully well. People who played under me when I was a Captain they know what to expect from me and same is the case with this team. The good thing with this team is, I’ve spent 18 months with them as the Director of the team when they were actually evolving. When I took over in England with the same support staff, it was a different team. Today it is a much more seasoned team. The guys have grown in the past two and a half years and it is for everyone to see when they play out in the middle.


The coming season will see India travelling to South Africa, England and Australia. How much of this calendar is a challenge and how much of it is an opportunity to do something that has never been done before?

I think it’s a great opportunity and a challenge. The reason I say it’s a combination of both is because if you see world cricket today, there is not a single team that travels well, especially when it comes to Test matches. If you see one team that has made strides in the last couple of years, it is India. We still go on raving and ranting about the overseas tours, I feel it as a challenge because no team travels well and this team has the opportunity to be that one team that can travel well. The onus is on us, when you put in the hard yards, it might happen and might not happen. But the opportunity is there. 

If you look at India in the last two years they’ve beaten England in England in an overseas ODI series, after 24 years. They’ve beaten Australia in a T20 series 3-0, we’ve beaten Sri Lanka back-to-back in two overseas tours here.

You’ve mentioned it in the past that this is Virat’s team and the support staff is an extension to it. But Virat and you share a lot of similar traits – from putting in the hard yards to chasing excellence. Thoughts.

I think that helps. It makes communication so much easier because when the mindset is similar and you are on the same page, then that reflects in the way that you will see the other players reacting. When you see this Indian Cricket Team on the field, you feel like watching them play. There is energy, there is camaraderie, an element of sharing, an element of happiness in anyone’s success. There is great disappointment if they don’t play to their potential, which is very important. It’s a great game. It will give you a lot of happiness and at the same time bring you down to earth. That’s the beauty of sport. But, then how you get up as a team and not as an individual, that is what will define this Indian Cricket Team and that is what our endeavor is - to have a great relationship.

The Captain will always be the boss of the team. I have under me a fantastic support staff who’ve been with me right from day one when I became the Director of the team and today I’m the Head Coach of the team. And there is a certain element of bonding and trust when it comes to the players dealing with the support staff and our job is making them feel relaxed and make them feel that they are in a great mental space. 

Rajlaxmi Arora
Rajlaxmi Arora

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Shikhar Dhawan - the batsman with swag

You bat like a king, get out like a king, says Dhawan after striking his second ton this Test series

Shikhar Dhawan is on a roll. The ball is hitting the sweet spot more often than not and he is making full use of it. If his 190 in the first Test at Galle was not enough, Dhawan backed it up with another whirlwind innings scoring 119 on day one of the third Test in Kandy. There is swag in his batting. Those deft touches and nudges with nonchalance are often overshadowed with the sheer pace in which he scores his runs. Toss the ball up and he would come down the track and hit you out of the park, pitch it slightly outside off and he would cut the ball to the fence with absolute ease. Some of these facets of his game were seen on a bright Saturday morning at the Pallekele stadium in Kandy as he paved his way to a 6th Test ton.

Along with KL Rahul, he put up a 188-run opening stand taking India to a position of advantage early on in the innings. Rahul unfortunately got out for 85, while Dhawan looked like getting a big score before he was out caught at square leg trying to go for a big shot. When asked if he regretted playing that shot or if Rahul was disappointed to get out in that fashion, Dhawan said, “I was saying jokingly that if you bat like a king, you should also get out like a king, you should not be dismissed like a soldier. If you have made runs aggressively, then you will get out that way too. That’s how it is. I know I am an aggressive batsman, so I would rather get out that way than getting out in the slips and being defensive because that is not my natural game. My game, my planning is to keep scoring, it works for me. My strength is to score quickly and I like to play to my strengths.”

Dhawan was impressive against the spinners as well. He used his feet well and also dealt with severity on occasions. Lakshan Sandakan, the Chinaman looked impressive but Dhawan was reading him well off the hand after trying to gauge him for a few overs. “Sandakan was bowling well. He was turning the ball and one odd ball was turning a lot. It was hard for me to pick his googly once or twice because I had not played him. It was my first time. But after I was set and once I saw him, then I knew what he was doing. I could pick his googly. His googly comes a bit slower than his normal delivery, so when you spend time, you realise things and you work according to that. He was turning the ball and that’s why I was playing him more cautiously rather than being over-aggressive.”

Dhawan acknowledged the fact that the pitch was not responsible for their (openers) mode of dismissals, in fact it was their intentions to go for the shots – to which there were no qualms. “The pitch is a bit on the slower side and does not have much of bounce in it. Rahul and myself played very nicely. We were playing our shots and got out, it was not as if we were getting out because of the pitch. The Sri Lankan bowlers bowled well and pulled the match a little bit on their side but we have got a decent score and good batsmen to go and score more runs tomorrow.”

From 188 for no loss, India went on to end the day with 329/6. Dhawan was not too bothered about the team’s loss of wickets in a hurry. “That happens. It’s not that it has happened for the first time. We got a good start and still feel at the end of the day, 329 is a good score. It is a wicket where it is not spinning but it doesn’t have bounce, so it’s not easy to score runs out there. When Sri Lanka come out to bat, we are going to make sure that we squeeze them hard and not give away easy runs.”

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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