Ravi Shastri was the head coach of the Indian team when it featured in the T20 World Cup last year in the United Arab Emirates. Despite being a star-studded team, India failed to make it to the last-four, raising quite a few questions.
But a year later, as another T20 World Cup beckons - this time in Australia - Shastri, who has now moved on from the coaching role, believes that India has the best batting line-up in the tournament.
During an interaction at the Mumbai Press Club on Wednesday, Shastri stressed on the fact that the presence of Hardik Pandya at No. 5 and Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant at No. 6 has made a massive difference to India’s batting.
“I have been part of the system for the last six-seven years, first as a coach and now I am watching from the outside, and I think this is the strongest batting line-up India has had in those six-seven years. You look at youth, you look at experience, you look at players peaking, I think this is as good a batting line-up as India has ever had in T20 cricket. Especially with Hardik at No. 5 and Rishabh or DK at No. 6 makes a massive difference,” Shastri said.
Ahead of the big-ticket tournament, India has encountered quite a few injury setbacks. The absence of Jasprit Bumrah has led to serious question marks over the team’s bowling strength.
“Teams will go through transition. You cannot expect every team to cover all departments. Every team will be short in one department. Yes, the injury will play on your mind, but it is an opportunity for some other youngsters to come to the party and stake his claims,” Shastri said.
“One area that India will have to pick up and start right from the beginning is fielding. They need to work hard and get their A game on the field when they step out against Pakistan. Those 15-20 runs that you save can make all the difference because otherwise every time you get out to bat, you need to get 15-20 runs extra. For sides like Australia, England, South Africa they field like crazy. Look at what Sri Lanka did in the Asia Cup with fielding. They won a tight game against Pakistan riding on fielding…”
During his stint as the head coach, the Indian team management stressed on fitness and Shastri believes that during his time with the team, the Yo-Yo test made a massive difference in the way players moved on the field.
Asked what India missed during the last T20 World Cup, Shastri said, “What India lacked in the last few years was a No. 4, No.5 and No.6 and now with Surya coming in at No.4, Hardik at No. 5, DK/Rishabh at No. 6, it allows the top-order to play in the manner they play, which is tremendous.”
“It is about taking the pressure to the opposition, where even if you are two down at the PowerPlay, you still have that ammunition at the back to consistently take on the bowlers, which was not the case for sometime. That way, this batting line-up is settled.”
With KL Rahul back from injury, Shastri feels that the opener has adapted well and is in the mix. “Rohit is there, Virat is getting into the groove. But No, 4, 5 and 6 has made a massive, massive difference,” he said.
“Big players, whether it is Virat or Rohit, the World Cup stage itself will ignite them. If you look at this Indian team, they played superbly in Australia for the last five-six years. The Australian tracks suit their batting and they are one of the best batting sides in the tournament. Once you have the best batting side in the tournament, irrespective of how good your bowling or fielding is, you have a chance of winning the Cup. That’s the way I look at it. You qualify for the semifinals, your batting takes off, you can beat any opposition. The conditions, the fact that India has been there four-five times in the last five-years will make a massive difference.”
Having watched the team closely, Shastri believes that batting order is absolutely fine and there is no need for a tweak. India begins its campaign at the T20 World Cup against Pakistan on October 23.