'Always the captain's team' - Shastri
Ravi Shastri is clear on one thing as he takes over the position of India coach from Anil Kumble: the captain is the boss of the team. The coach and his backroom staff, according to the new India coach, are there only to make sure the players are in the right frame of mind to perform at their best.
Shastri beat four other candidates to the job and said he only applied for the position having understood the "gravity of the situation" once Kumble stepped down in less than ideal circumstances last month.
Shastri was team director just before Kumble was appointed coach last year, and he said he had been disappointed when he was overlooked as head coach in 2016. But after Kumble's one-year contract expired in June, the BCCI chose not to renew it and instead sent out an advertisement seeking candidates for the position. Kumble himself had been one of the applicants, even though he was told he would be given "direct entry". Shastri, though, was not.
The Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman - tasked with finding India's next coach told the BCCI that Kumble remained their first choice. But Kumble stepped down after realising the differences between him and the captain Virat Kohli had become "untenable".
It was then that Shastri decided to enter the fray, with the BCCI re-opening the interview process.
"I had not really wrapped my head around the gravity of the situation," Shastri told Times of India. "There was nothing personal. I really hadn't begun to understand the seriousness of this. But when I sat down and gave it a serious thought, I began to tell myself: 'Here is a unit that I have been part of and enjoyed a great working relationship with. Having been part of the unit that helped it become No. 1, I thought the onus is on me now to make it work again, in the best interests of everybody involved. That's when I knew it's time for me to apply again."
According to various individuals from the BCCI and CAC as well as the committee of administrators one big point of difference between Kohli and Kumble was who was the boss.
Shastri is more than happy to let the captain take charge. "It's always the captain's team and it is the leader who calls the shots. That's how it has always worked. A coach's role, effectively speaking, is to stay in the background and let the onus be on the players. The coach and support staff's role is to get the players in the most brilliant frame of mind to execute things and if done effectively, it brings enjoyment to the player's game."
Shastri said his relationship with the support staff - both Sanjay Bangar (assistant coach) and R Sridhar (fielding coach) were appointed by him - as well as the positive rapport he has with the players meant he could hit the ground running.
"I'm simply going to press the refresh button and begin from where I left. I know what I'm stepping into, players have an idea of what's coming, so that ticks the first box. Just to give you an idea, I won't be spending the first six to eight months in the job warming up to the team. That had already been accomplished in my previous stint. This time, it's going to be about getting on the job from day one."
Although Shastri and Kohli will be the men in command, a new challenge awaits them in the form of Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan, who have been appointed as consultants by the BCCI at the behest of the CAC. The CAC felt, with India travelling overseas in the next two years for challenging Test series' and the 2019 World Cup in England, the players needed experienced specialist hands to ensure success.
Asked for his thoughts on working with Dravid and Zaheer, Shastri was optimistic, but hinted he would have the last word on support staff appointments.
"In fact, even in my last stint, I had asked people like Rahul and Zaheer to come every now and then," Shastri told Mid-Day. "I even asked Sachin [Tendulkar] to come at some stage and have a chat with the boys. I always believe that you need a fresh set of ideas. Your core team is meant to do the job for 200 days a year and every now and then, whenever you get some fresh inputs through with the quality of players like Zak (Zaheer) or Rahul it can only be good.
"Tomorrow it could be an excellent fielding coach. What stops Jonty Rhodes from coming and having a chat with the boys? Overseas, I could pick the brains of a fast bowler who has bowled very well in those conditions - say in South Africa or Australia. It's fresh inputs that might trigger off something. I am always open to such kind of ideas."