Cricket World Cup: The Shastri assessment of team India

With the Cricket World Cup 2019 just around 100 days away, India head coach talks the strength of his players, calls Virat Kohli a great.

Ravi Shastri (R) believes India's pace attack will come in handy in England and termed captain Virat Kohli a great.   -  AFP

Ravi Shastri talks straight, doesn’t hold back his punches. The Indian cricket team coach shared his views with Sportstar on a variety of issues ahead of the limited-overs series against Australia starting February 24.

Excerpts...

How different is this Indian team from the previous sides?

I wouldn’t like to compare sides. This team plays as a unit. It plays with pride. Individual brilliance will be there but the emphasis is on collective effort.

What does Virat Kohli bring to the table?

He brings extreme professionalism with a very high price tag on fitness, work ethics and on-field aggression. His passion rubs off on others and he has an enormous desire to do well in overseas Tests. He is the biggest and the greatest ambassador for Test cricket now. We have a similar view on the direction the team should go.

Where would you put Kohli in the pantheon of great batsmen?

I think his ability to dominate in all conditions and situations is his strength. I would rank him right up with the very best. He’s just 30 and already a great.

What are India’s chances in the World Cup?

If we play to potential and are injury-free, we can go the distance.

Which teams are the biggest threats for India?

The much-improved England have gone for one-day specialists and they will be playing at home. And you can never discount Australia with Steve Smith and David Warner back and the kind of bowling attack they have. Fitness will be crucial in a long, gruelling format with each team playing the other once.

The Indian pace attack will be in the hunt in England...

If it is overcast and the tracks have got something in it, they will be more than handy, especially the way they have have bowled in the last 12 months. Collectively they have been varied, accurate, hostile and deadly.

Jasprit Bumrah will be a 'massive asset' to India's chances at the World Cup in England.   -  PTI

 

What do you think of the development of India all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar?

Both are very exciting players. Pandya is a natural athlete and has got tremendous ability to swing games. He needs to work on consistency. Shankar’s runs in New Zealand would have given him a lot of confidence but he needs to work on his bowling. Bowling coach Bharat Arun is looking into those aspects.

What do you feel about M.S. Dhoni’s presence in the side?

Dhoni continues to be the best wicketkeeper in the world but you cannot expect him to be the same cricketer that he was in his younger days. However, as you saw in Australia, his experience with the bat can be extremely valuable to the side.

How big a role has bowling coach Bharat Arun played in the development of the pacemen?

Massive. He has been in the coaching system for over 20 years. He has seen these guys at the academy. And his ability to communicate with them, in the manner he does, is a great help.

Jasprit Bumrah has added an additional dimension to the Indian attack...

He’s an awkward customer with his action, gets steep bounce, his pace doesn’t drop and he’s got the skills. A massive asset. We knew three months before that Bumrah will be playing in the first Test in South Africa. We needed him to get stronger and fitter for the Test matches. He worked very hard. You saw the kind of influence he had in the Test matches.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (L) stumps New Zealand's Lockie Ferguson (R) during the first ODI against New Zealand at McLean Park in Napier.   -  AFP

 

The fielding standards have also gone up...

Overall, catching, ground fielding, speed on the ground, the ability to create chances have all improved. Identifying and preparing fielders for catching positions is an area where Sridhar is very good.

You have shown a great faith in wrist spin and said Kuldeep Yadav will be India’s No. 1 Test spinner overseas...

I don’t want to go in that direction. What I meant to say was Kuldeep, a special talent who can only get stronger and wiser and is already bowling with good control, had become a contender who could even be first choice overseas. It all depends on the conditions, the combination you want to go in with and whether you want an all-rounder. Even Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja), when he got two opportunities overseas, did an excellent job. Any of the three [Ravichandran Ashwin being the other one in fray] can play depending on the opposition you are playing against. Jadeja can use the rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump, Kuldeep can use the rough both ways from over and round the wicket, then you have Ash (Ashwin) with all his experience.

The Indian Test series triumph down under was a path breaking moment in Indian cricket..

There was desire, hunger, and the boys wanted it badly.

Your view on Cheteshwar Pujara’s rise?

Unbelievable concentration. Once he got in, you needed a stretcher to get him off in Australia.

Kuldeep Yadav is a 'special talent who can only get stronger and wiser and is already bowling with good control', believes Ravi Shastri.   -  ap

 

Your reply to those who said there was some infighting within the side in Australia?

There wasn’t anything and we are not bothered. If anybody wants to cook up stories, be my guest. By the way, we won the series in Australia.

Where do you draw the line between aggression and bad behaviour?

With experience you know, you can’t get personal, you can’t go over the line, you play within the rules. But the intent should be there.

Your thoughts on the evolution of Rishabh Pant?

He grabbed his opportunities, got away hundreds at The Oval and Sydney. He likes the big stage and has the confidence. Rishabh learned quickly and he kept well. And he is just 21.

Rishabh Pant (in picture) 'likes the big stage and has confidence'.   -  AFP

 

On the coordination between the team-management, the selection panel and Rahul Dravid...

The regular ‘A’ tours is a very good system BCCI has created. It stands you in good stead when you want to raise the bar. Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, they are a good crop, good strength of mind. I interact with Rahul pretty regularly. Sometime more than runs and wickets, you are looking for balance in the eleven and the selectors have to look in a particular direction. I was very impressed with the temperament and technique shown by Mayank in his first Test innings on the Boxing Day. He looked very composed. Vihari too, batted with plenty of resolve and showed a lot of promise.

What has been the most satisfying aspect in your tenure as a coach?

The Test series win in Australia. I know how hard it is. When the job is done, you enjoy the moment. I must compliment the support staff. Arun, Sanjay [Bangar] and Sridhar for their remarkable work in a gruelling schedule. The hallmark of this team is no excuses. If you slip, you own up. I have been to Australia as a cricketer and a broadcaster. I know how difficult it is to win a series there. If you slip up in one session, they will eat you. You have to play hard, you have to be very tough and you have to concentrate for long periods. Aussies at home are always very tough to beat.