Indian cricket August 21, 2014

Shastri could play Upton role

ESPNcricinfo staff

During Gary Kirsten's time as India coach, Paddy Upton performed an important role in the backroom, as the mental conditioning coach whom the players could go to for a heart-to-heart chat, and a 'mate they went to in times of trouble'. Since the time Duncan Fletcher took over from Kirsten, India have lacked an Upton-type figure. Writing in Wisden India, Dileep Premachandran says Ravi Shastri could perform that role.

Right now, Virat Kohli could probably do with a drink and a chat with someone who's been where he is now. The recurring theme when you speak to the greats of the game is that fallow runs and troughs usually coincide with the joy being sucked out of the game. When it becomes a chore, you need to step back and try to see things differently. It's no secret that the three prolific years Rahul Dravid enjoyed at the end of his career - he made 10 of his 36 centuries then - had much to do with taking a more relaxed approach.

Shastri will certainly help with that. Bharat Arun, who comes on board as one of two assistant coaches, would have worked with some of the players at Under-19 level. Sanjay Bangar would have played against a few of them in domestic cricket. These are young coaches with the hunger to succeed. For those on the outside, this may seem a stopgap arrangement. For them, it's akin to an audition.

Ayaz Memon, writing in Mint, says Shastri's straight-talking approach could help the players, and his time with the team could bring benefits even beyond his short tenure.

Purely from personal knowledge of the man over the years, I can see Shastri providing some robust pep talks. He has a positive, never-say-die attitude which can instil self-belief and confidence in the players. He will also be unafraid to spell out the riot act to players who deserve it.

In the changing dynamics of Indian cricket, Shastri's elevation as cricket director is much more than just a fancy-sounding designation. He has been put in charge of cricket affairs for the next fortnight, when five One Day Internationals (ODIs) will be played. This gives him sweeping powers, including a say in team selection, which is significant. I would imagine he is also going to speak to all the players, support staff, assess the issues, concerns, etc., and submit a report to the BCCI on why the performance has been so mercurial.

Not everyone is convinced by Shastri's appointment, though. In the Hindustan Times, Pradeep Magazine reckons Shastri was rewarded 'for aligning himself with the cricket establishment'.

And people like Shastri, adept at speaking the language that pleases their masters, are guilty of professing that their heart bleeds for the demise of the India Test team. Just a few gems from Shastri in the past should remind everyone what this former all-rounder stands for. He described Lalit Modi as the Moses of world cricket for creating the biggest T20 brand called IPL. Today, as Modi stands condemned in the eyes of the world, this accolade is reserved for N. Srinivasan, the man who is controlling the reins of Indian cricket in his iron fist.

In Shastri's view, the Decision Review System is an evil that is to be shunned because the Indian Board believes so. For him, IPL was the greatest thing to have happened to Indian cricket and we were told its benefits will help India conquer the world. These benefits are so evident now that India can't even last 50 overs in Test cricket. In the final embarrassment at the Oval, India lasted just nine overs more than the 20 they are so adept at playing. I can go on and on, but suffice to say by making such sweeping changes after the horse has bolted, that too when the team will now be engaged in a format they are very good at, makes little sense.

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