Ravi Shastri Photograph:( AFP )
Ravi Shastri was appointed the head coach of the Indian cricket team in July, 2017 but has he justified his role and position with results? Is the Indian team becoming minnow-bashers or chokers against major teams?
“If you look at the last three years, we [Indian cricket team] have won nine matches overseas and three series (against West Indies and twice in Sri Lanka). I can't see any other Indian team in the last 15-20 years that have had the same run in such a short time, and you have had some great players playing in those series. So the promise is there, and it's just about getting tougher mentally,” Indian head coach Ravi Shastri had said about the Indian team with beaming pride in 2018 just after England handed a painful 4-1 Test series defeat.
In July 2017, Ravi Shastri was appointed as the head coach of the Indian cricket team after Indian skipper Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble (former Indian head coach) didn’t get together well enough, which resulted in the latter resigning from his post – a saga well documented in public.
Since Shastri’s appointment, India have defeated Sri Lanka (home and away), South Africa (home), the West Indies (home and away), Bangladesh (home), Afghanistan (one-off Test at home) and Australia (away) but have suffered glaring defeats against England (away), South Africa (away) and New Zealand (away).
The latest addition into the matches India have played under Shastri’s tenure as head coach is the Adelaide Horror, where the Virat Kohli-led visitors were skittled out for 36 runs in the second innings with none of the batters managing to get to double digits.
India may well go onto turn the tables and win the series (a mammoth task) but the scars of 36 have been etched into the hearts of the Indian cricket fans forever.
Ravi Shastri has always sounded bullish about Indian team and the talent it possesses, no second thought about it because it is indeed a supremely talented bunch of players. The bowling attack is arguably the best Indian team has had so far in their history. The batting unit led by Virat Kohli consists of quality players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari – all of them have stood out in some series or another but the questions remain; is this Indian team utilizing its potential collectively? When will Ravi Shastri and co. start producing results overseas? Why does India often get tactically outclassed on foreign soil?
India have been dominating home series and that has been the case for long, long before Ravi Shastri. The 2-1 Border Gavaskar Trophy win in 2018-19 was historic, no shadow of doubt about it. Then Australia were without David Warner and Steve Smith, and India pounced on each and every opportunity that came towards them in the series and registered their first-ever Test series win on Australian soil and became the first Asian side to do so. Fair enough. But did the Indian team utilize the momentum and became a better side? No.
Let’s not even go back to Freedom Trophy, when India visited South Africa in 2017-18 or even the Pataudi Trophy, when India visited England in 2018. India lost both the series. Some will say due to poor reading of conditions, many will say India were tactically and technically outclassed by the hosts.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, India were humiliated by New Zealand and ended up losing the series 2-0. Completely dominated and outclassed by the Kane Williamson-led outfit. Then the pandemic struck and the series drubbing slowly took a backseat amid the chaos of daily life. However, the Adelaide Horror has freshened up the sour memories and fans are asking, what is Ravi Shastri doing to get this talented bunch of players up and running in full flow?
The current Indian squad is pretty much similar to when it visited Down Under in 2018-19. So what went so wrong in Adelaide? The pink-ball? India got ample practice including a warm-up game to gear up for the game. Or is the Indian cricket team bearing the weight of being clueless on the tactical front, especially when it comes to batting? The same old road map which was torn apart by the likes of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon in Adelaide.
Shastri was handed a contract extension in June 2019, until the ICC World Cup 2021. But has the head coach of the Indian cricket team justified his role and position by suffering defeats after defeats in away series (barring Australia 2018-19) against major opposition?
Good vocabulary and booming voice may sound good in the commentary box or in press conferences - where Ravi Shastri is generally not seen after series defeats. But when it comes to the Indian cricket team, the fans demand result, which in all fairness, has been a disappointing course under Shastri’s tenure - be it in away series or in ICC tournaments. And let’s not even discuss the ICC World Cup 2019 semi-final, where the Indian team was left shattered and clueless by New Zealand bowlers.
The Indian cricket team is well capable of coming back strong. These players are a talented bunch. New faces will come in. Players who underperform are often mercilessly cropped out but what about the underperforming head coach of the Indian team? Is there an answer now or will India wait till three forthcoming World Cups, in 2021, 22 and 23? Or if everyone is content with India thrashing Sri Lanka, West Indies or Bangladesh (with all due respect to these teams), then let it be.