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April 9, 2007
Ravi Shastri, India's newly-appointed cricket manager, has said that his major task is to ensure that the players recover from the World Cup disaster and enjoy their game again.
"I make no promises. What my endeavour is to see a happy Indian team playing cricket," Shastri told the CNN-IBN. "Watching India playing in the last three to four months just gave me the impression that they were doing a 9-5 desk job with huge weight and expectations on their shoulders.
"What I want to tell them is that this is sport and they should go out there and enjoy it. And if you lose in that fashion then I am ready to take it on the chin. So, no promises whatsoever. I just want India to play happy and good cricket. And you guys watching should enjoy it too."
Shastri will serve as the team's manager for a tour of Bangladesh in May after Greg Chappell declined to renew his contract as coach. He said his role was confined to the Bangladesh tour to give the Indian board sufficient time to find Chappell's successor for matches in England and Ireland in July.
"I love challenges," said Shastri. "So, when I was asked whether you will put your hand up, I said yes. I never want to shy away from a challenge...and if I can help, nothing like it."
Shastri agreed that a young team should be picked for the Bangladesh tour with an experienced captain in Rahul Dravid. "You have to look at youth in whatever you do, in whatever walk of life at some stage. There is a shelf period for everything and if you have got to experiment, then do it against Bangladesh.
"I am not saying that Bangladesh is weak. They have thrashed South Africa; they have laid India low in this World Cup, so you can never take them lightly. [But] there's going to be a lot of cricket to be played by India in the next 12 months, so if you want to give youngsters opportunities then do it early.
"When you are playing a Test match, you would like to be playing with your strongest side. So, it's not that the seniors are out of it totally but I would like to see youngsters given opportunities and see what happens."
Shastri played down media speculation of a rift in the team between the senior and junior players. "I have read about it," he said. "When I reach Bangladesh I would try my best to clear everything out if there is a problem. No big deal. A good team doesn't become a bad team in two weeks and a bad team doesn't become an excellent one in two weeks. Be patient."