Shastri: ‘I don't see any change in the team’

"I didn’t see any change, the nucleus of the team is pretty much the same," said Ravi Shastri about the Indian team, to which he's returned as the head coach after being its team director during 2014-16.

Shastri: ‘When I have good bench strength, it is very good.’   -  PTI

In Ravi Shastri’s roller-coaster cricketing life, Sri Lanka has been a significant signpost. During September, 1994, Shastri, while doing commentary for the Singer Series tournament in the Emerald Isle, announced his retirement from the game and wrote a note addressed to ‘Azzu and boys’ (Mohammed Azharuddin’s men), explaining his reasons and wishing them the very best.

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Nearly 23 years after that moment when he dived into sports broadcasting, Shastri is back in the teardrop island and another career-change has been implemented. He is inside the Indian dressing room but as the head coach. His playing days are a distant memory and the more recent remembrance of him is all about the boisterous commentator, who loves his ‘tracer bullets.’

A former India captain, who served the squad as its team director just a year back, Shastri steps into the shoes of Anil Kumble, whose manner of exit showed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and skipper Virat Kohli in poor light. Shastri spoke to the media at the Sinhalese Sports Club here on Tuesday and just as he wound up, it was time for him to bond with Sri Lanka’s eternal fan - Percy Abeysekera.

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Dressing room dynamics

I wasn’t there for the last 12 months, so I don’t know. But when I got in it was pretty much from where I left. I didn’t see any change, the nucleus of the team is pretty much the same and I know what to expect from them, they know what to expect from me. There is no need of reinventing the wheel or anything of that sort.

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His role

My role is to be in charge of the entire support staff and to make sure that we get the boys in some great mental space to go out and express themselves with nothing else on their minds. To go out and play a brand of cricket which India played over the last three years, that is positive and fearless. At times you need to just fine-tune the players because the amount of cricket that’s being played, they might get into the odd bad habit without realizing it. That’s where the experience of having played and probably having watched helps. You can pick it up and pass the message.

A team on a growth curve

This team has done things that a lot of Indian teams couldn’t do. A lot of big names have played for 20 years and have come to Sri Lanka and never won a series but this team did that (in 2015). This team is used to doing things, that too overseas. When you say overseas (tours) like South Africa or England, it is a lot of tough cricket coming up and I see it as an opportunity.

The win at Galle

It was like walking into the dressing room as I had left it. Nothing had changed and no special buttons to press. It was just that one play button and off you went. The boys were fantastic. There are still areas to improve and we discussed that. What we want from this team is consistency.

Captain Kohli

I see a big difference from when he captained in his first Test at Adelaide (2014). I see a difference in body language and he has matured. There are signs that he can be up there with the very best.

Looking ahead

I am not going as far ahead as South Africa. We are 1-0 up. We want to keep that record intact and treat every game as a new game where the rules are the same, you go out to play your brand of cricket and win.

Team-director to head-coach

I don’t know what it was like 10 months ago. As far as I am concerned I just had to walk in.

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