Ravi Shastri hits out at MS Dhoni critics
What's the story?
Team India coach Ravi Shastri spoke out in support of MS Dhoni as part of an interview with India Today ahead of the team's tour of South Africa next year. "He is still one of the best around, not only in the Indian team, but the world. Some of the things you see with him are not sold in the market. You will not get it anywhere else," he said.
Shastri spoke at length about the team's prospects in South Africa. India are yet to win a Test series against the Proteas in South Africa, and Shastri said that he hopes that record will change under his stewardship.
Shastri said the opposition being South Africa was not necessarily of consequence. "Nothing changes the way we approach any other month. For us all opposition is the same, all oppositions have to be respected and every game is a home match," he told India Today.
"It turned out that next we are in South Africa. Where South Africa is different is that we haven't won a series in South Africa. Therein lies a massive opportunity for the team to do something special. The belief is there. We are going there and we will treat South Africa like we treat any other opposition we have played against. There will be respect but we will go there to win," he went on.
Shastri also heaped praise on Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who will return after a break to lead the team in South Africa. "The great thing about Virat is his work ethic, his realisation of what kind of player he can become and what he it takes to become that player. So the emphasis on fitness, the sacrifices that he has to put through. A lot of things he wants to do as a 29-year-old. And it has become part of his lifestyle," he said.
"What happens is, that when you have a captain in that frame of mind, wanting to achieve things others can only dream of. Then it rubs off on other players. Others want to emulate him. He wants to raise the bar for himself and he doesn't want any room for excuses."
He also spoke glowingly of former Indian skipper MS Dhoni, who has met with criticism from some corners in the recent past. Questioning those people and asking them how fit they would be at Dhoni's age - 36 - Shastri said, " have been watching this sport for the last 30-40 years. Virat has been a part of this team for a decade now. We know, at this age, he can beat players aged 26. People who talk, forget that they played the game. If they look themselves in the mirror and ask the question, 'what they were at the age of 36?'. would they have run two runs faster?' But the time they finish two, this guy will run three. Then he has won only two World Cups and averages only 51. Till today you don't have a wicket-keeper to replace him in the one day team."
Shastri is of the firm belief that Dhoni is unique both in temperament and skill. ""He is still one of the best around, not only in the Indian team, but the world. Some of the things you see with him are not sold in the market. You will not get it anywhere else," he said.
The coach also backed MS Dhoni for India's 2019 World Cup squad, saying "The fact that he does not play Test cricket, means he should be playing as much cricket as possible till the World Cup in 2019."
In case you didn't know...
Shastri took on the mantle of coaching the Indian team from ace spinner Anil Kumble earlier this year, after Kumble resigned from the post citing an "untenable relationship" with skipper Virat Kohli.
The former Indian batsman pipped Virender Sehwag and Tom Moody to the post of head coach, with Zaheer Khan appointed the bowling coach and Rahul Dravid appointed an overseas batting consultant.
55-year-old Shastri stressed during the course of the interview how important the coaching role is to him. "People are saying 12 months, people will say 24 months, for me it started the day I took the job. And nothing changes the way we approach any other month. For us all opposition is the same, all oppositions have to be respected and every game is a home match," he said.
India will commence their tour of South Africa on the 5th of January, 2018, playing three Tests, six ODIs and three T20Is across the country.
The team has been in excellent form of late, recently completing a drubbing of Sri Lanka. If they can keep up that form, there is no reason India will not do well on the tour of South Africa, especially with a healthy mix of experience and young blood on the side. That mix, coupled with constant fitness tests, will keep cricketers on their toes - and as a result, fitness and form at their optimal levels.