After much hue and cry, Ravi Shastri was finally named the coach of the Indian cricket team. The former Indian skipper beat competition from the likes of former Indian opener Virender Sehwag and former Sri Lankan coach Tom Moody, among others to secure the prestigious, but challenging position.
Now, in his first stint as the coach of the Indian team, the 55-year-old walks into a side that has made headlines for all the wrong reasons, following the infamous Kohli-Kumble spat. And while this would be an unnerving situation for most individuals, for Shastri, however, this is not an unfamiliar territory as he has been in charge of a side going through tumultuous times before.
Cometh the moment, cometh the man
On the two previous occasions that Shastri was called upon by the BCCI to handle the Indian team, they were in a similar state of disarray. The first was after the 2007 ICC World Cup debacle in the West Indies following India’s shock group stage exit in the tournament. With the country fuming about the team’s performance in the tournament, Shastri entered the picture as team manager, and not only did he restore the cricket-crazy nation’s faith in the game, he also oversaw the team winning the inaugural ICC World T20 in South Africa.
Then again, in 2014, following a 4-0 hammering at the hands of England Shastri was once again asked to leave his broadcasting duties and join the Indian side as the team director. And once again, he willingly did so and again under his supervision India won the ODI series that followed the Test series. In both cases, Shastri had to lift the morale of the Indian side following demoralising defeats.
And in a way, enough credit can’t be given to Shastri for the job that he did. While the role of a coach is a well-defined one and deals predominantly with the physical aspects of the game, the role of a director, on the other hand, is a lot more complex it deals with the psychological aspects of the game. But more importantly, one of the main reasons why Shastri was able to do what he did was because he was able to form a bond with the majority of the Indian squad.
This time, however, Shastri was handed the reigns for a two year period and he only enhanced his reputation by overseeing India’s path to the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Moreover, while Duncan Fletcher resigned as the coach after the World Cup, Shastri continued to be the team director and India had their fair share of crests under him – ICC World Twenty20 semifinal in 2016, Twenty20 series win in Australia, the Asia Cup triumph and Test series win in Sri Lanka.
An irreplaceable force
Given the amount of success he had during his tenure at the helm, it must be said that Shastri was extremely unfortunate to be replaced by Anil Kumble, who took over as the coach of the Indian team in July last year. As far as the reasons for Shastri's removal was concerned, despite his success as the team's director, he lost out Kumble owing to the latter's comparative vast experience as a player and the fact that the panel who took the final decision was made up of Kumble's former teammates.
But the one thing which Kumble couldn't enjoy, unlike Shastri, was the support of his players. In Kumble's case, despite having a fairly spotless CV as the coach, which included a hugely successful home Test season against the likes of New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia and also guiding the team to the top of the ICC Test rankings, and the final of the Champions Trophy earlier this year, Kumble never really had the backing of his players the way that Shastri did. And that eventually proved to be the former leg-spinner’s undoing as he lost the support of the dressing room.
Eventually, the lack of support cost Kumble his job as it rendered his equation with Virat Kohli as “untenable”. Moreover, Kumble’s resignation on June 20th left Indian cricket in another lurch and once again the Shastri was the man that India turned to. And as expected Shastri, once again, did not disappoint. In the latest situation, Indian cricket was in the face of another crisis with too much power being vested into Kohli's hands and in such a scenario, the need of the hour was someone who could stand up to the Indian skipper in terms of stature and Shastri was the only one capable of doing that, among the names that were present.
However, one of the first things that Shastri clarified upon being named as the coach was that he wasn’t going to change his previous approach, which means that he would continue to oversee the happenings in the team, without being too authoritative in his approach.
A perfect match
In fact, it is this laid back approach of Shastri that makes him a favourite among the current Indian squad and Kohli, in particular. Given that the amount of talent that is present in the current Indian team and the fact that they have a problem with authority, they needed a coach who would merely oversee proceedings without being too assertive in his dealings. Moreover, this a viewpoint which has been suggested by Sunil Gavaskar as well and with Shastri now as the coach, the team now have a perfect fit.
Going by his previously mentioned record as the director of the Indian team which, it must be mentioned that the former Mumbai opener didn’t deserve to lose out to Anil Kumble as the coach, in the first place, given that he was the perfect man for the job all along. But now that he has been officially handed the reigns of the team as the coach, not only does it feel like is it well-deserved, it must be said that an impending sense of justice has also been served. Or as Shastri himself called it, "What goes around comes around".