India head coach Ravi Shastri lashed out at the ICC for shifting to a ‘percentage of points’ system mid-way through the WTC, but expressed pride over how his side overcame the challenge to finish top. India needed a series win over England to qualify for the WTC Final, and they did it in style.
Despite a 2-0 loss at the hands of New Zealand in March 2020, the prospect of India reaching the World Test Championship, thanks to them having racked up 360 points, looked inevitable, but a rule-change in the middle of the pandemic threw a spanner in their works. Instead of a conventional points system, the ICC announced that the finalists of the WTC would be decided through ‘percentage of points’ and this meant that India slipped to third and had to get positive results versus both England and Australia to progress to the final.
Eventually, they did but the team’s head coach Ravi Shastri was no fan of the sudden change. Addressing a press conference post the England series, Shastri slammed the ICC for the unforeseen rule-change and termed that it was unfair on the council’s part to shift the goal post-mid-match.
“I’m not even worried about the second cycle. I’m still thinking of the first cycle. If you’re asking about the problems of the first cycle, then please don't shift the goalpost,” Shastri said in a rather aggressive tone.
“I’m sitting at home in Covid. You have got more points than any other team in the world. Suddenly, a week later, without playing cricket, a rule comes in a week later that you’re going to go with the percentage system. You go from number one to number three in a week.
“We have had to dig deep. We’ve had to go down every hole to find water and we found it. And we’ve earned the right to be in the final of the World Test Championship - the biggest Trophy in the world.”
As Shastri pointed out, India dug deep - literally. Injuries forced the side to dig deep into their reserves and hand debuts and starting slots to a plethora of rookies, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise as all the inexperienced younger players took to Test cricket like ducks to water. Shastri claimed that India understanding of the strength of their reserves was the biggest positive to have come out of bubble-life, which forced the side to carry extended squads.
“Strength in depth is the biggest positive to come out of the bubble. Because of the bubble you had to go with enlarged squads. Normally you go with 17 or 18 players but because of the bubble you had to go with 25 or 30 players. As a result of which you had to dig deep and pick your best 30 players.
“As luck would have it, we had no choice but to play all 30 players. And you found out who was good and who was not good. So it’s a good headache to have. It’s something that has worked well. You would have never imagined six months ago that Natarajan or Sundar would have played a Test match. These are things you would not have imagined, but circumstances made it happen. I’m glad the youngsters who had the opportunities grabbed it with both hands.”
India were near-perfect once cricket restarted, but for their fielding. In the Australia tour, the side dropped myriad catches and the nature of some of those drops made people question the role of the fielding coach, R Sridhar. Eventually, however, the team were back to their best in the field in the England series, taking all the important catches that came their way. Shastri asserted with confidence that Sridhar is one of the best coaches going around in the world, and claimed that it was mental and physical fatigue, that caused the team to put down sitters in the initial part of ‘project restart’.
“The fielding coach is outstanding. We’ve been in a bubble for five months. We’ve played 8 Test matches in 75 days. The mental fatigue is going to be hard, so you’re gonna drop catches. But we were not the only team to drop catches. Australia dropped as many catches if not more. But the fact is that when we had to take those catches to win matches, we took it. The fielding coach is one of the best in the world. He is understated and he is Indian. R Sridhar is one of the best.”