Ravi Shastri: One of the great teams in the history of the game

Ahead of India’s last game in the T20 World Cup and his last game as head coach, Ravi Shastri reflected on his journey with the Indian side.

Ravi Shastri’s swan song as the coach of the Indian team has not quite gone to plan, as they crashed out of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup before they played their final game against Namibia.

After a stint as team director of the Indian cricket team, Shastri was appointed as the head coach in 2017, which was later extended in 2019 to the end of the 2021 T20 World Cup.

Reflecting on the journey with the Indian team as a coach, Shastri was all praise for his team and said that the performance in the tournament does not take anything away from what the team has achieved during his tenure.

“I think it’s been fantastic. When I took this job, I said in my mind, ‘I want to make a difference.’ And I think I have,” said Ravi Shastri. “Sometimes, in life, it is not all about what you accomplish, it is what you overcome.

“And what these guys have overcome in the last five years, the way they have travelled across the globe and performed in all formats of the game, will make this, irrespective of what’s happened here (T20 World Cup), as one of the great teams in the history of the game. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind.

“It is unfortunate that we are out of this tournament, but that takes nothing away from a great side.”

With Shastri at the helm, India reached the semi-finals of the 2019 Cricket World Cup and were the finalists of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship. They also twice toppled Australia in Tests in their own backyard, including a memorable series win where they came from 1-0 down after being bowled out for 36 in Adelaide to claim the series 2-1 with a victory at The Gabba.

Shastri singled out the team’s achievements in the longest format as the high points of his tenure.

“Across all formats, there are plenty of high points. But I would say winning in red-ball cricket across the globe, in West Indies, Sri Lanka, Australia, we are leading the series against England. To go across and beat these sides and every team in white-ball cricket, whether it is T20 or 50-over, we have beaten sides in their den, which was my endeavour and the team’s endeavour.

“Because we (past Indian teams) were always labelled as big bullies at home, but you had to travel outside, we didn’t have the goods. But this team has shown we have more and plenty of that.”

In the last five years, the way they have travelled across the globe and performed in all formats of the game, will make this, irrespective of what’s happened here (T20 World Cup), as one of the great teams in the history of the game.

As announced on 3 November, Rahul Dravid will take over as the head coach, with his first assignment being New Zealand’s tour of India where they will play three T20Is and two Tests. However, India will have one eye on the upcoming ICC events, including the T20 World Cup next year in Australia, the Cricket World Cup at home in 2023, as well as the ongoing World Test Championship cycle.

Also read: India’s unceremonious T20 demise at the 2021 World Cup

Taking about the future of the Indian team, Shastri was all praise for Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli.

“I think in Rahul Dravid, they have a guy who has inherited a great team. I think with his stature, his experience, he can only raise the bar of this team in the time to come. There are still a lot of players here who will play for another 3-4 years, which is very important. This is not a team in transition and that will make the biggest difference. 

“Virat’s still there and he has done a fantastic job as the leader of this side. In fact, he has been the biggest and best ambassador for Test match cricket over the last five years. A lot of credit goes to him for the way he has thought about how he wants the team to play and how the team has rallied around him.”

Though India would have liked to give the coach a fitting send-off, it still does not take the sheen away from Shastri’s enviable list of achievements during his stint as the head coach.

When quizzed about the biggest takeaways from the tournament, Shastri was vocal about the players’ workloads in the months leading to the World Cup and time spent in bio-secure environments that impacted the team.

“First of all, it is rest. I am mentally drained but I expect that at my age. These guys (the team) are physically and mentally drained with six months in the bubble.

“What we would have ideally liked is a bigger gap between the IPL and the World Cup. It is when the big games come and the pressure hits you, you are not switched on as you should be. This is not an excuse. We take defeats as we are not scared of losing.”

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