Former India head coach Ravi Shastri does not see any reason to panic after the team's twin losses in South Africa. Speaking to PTI on the sidelines of the ongoing Legends Cricket League in Oman, Shastri said given India's strong performances over the past few years, "how can the standard go down suddenly?"
Shastri took over as commissioner of the Legends League Cricket, a T20 league that features former players, following his stint as India head coach. He said he did not follow the series in South Africa, but he was confident the team would bounce back. "If you lose one series, you people start criticising... You can't win every game, there will be wins and losses," he said. "How can the standard go down suddenly? For five years, you have been number one side in the world."
Shastri's time with the Indian team spanned from 2014 to 2021, with a break of a year in between from mid-2016 to mid-2017, when Anil Kumble was the coach. Under Shastri, India became the first Asian team to win a Test series against Australia in Australia, doing it in 2018-19 and then repeating the feat in 2020-21. They also made the final of the inaugural World Test Championship, and were leading in a series in England in 2021 before it was stalled by fears of Covid-19. After taking over from Kumble in 2017, Shastri's term was extended in 2019 till the end of the T20 World Cup 2021. Shastri, 59, would have not been eligible to serve another term as coach though due to age restrictions on the role.
Rahul Dravid has since taken over from Shastri, but there has also been churn on the captaincy front with Virat Kohli giving up the T20 and Test captaincy a couple of months apart, and being stripped of job in ODIs in between. Shastri, who worked closely with Kohli all through his tenure, said his decision to quit as Test captain should not be questioned.
"It's his choice. You have to respect his decision. There is a time for everything. A lot of big players in the past have left captaincy when they felt they wanted to focus on their batting or on their cricket.
"Whether it's (Sachin) Tendulkar, (Sunil) Gavaskar or (MS) Dhoni. And, it's Virat Kohli now."
"If you announce beforehand, then what happens if the player can't fit into the team? Then there will be a problem, because 'How can we drop the vice-captain?'"Ravi Shastri on why he thinks it's better not to name an official vice-captain
Shastri said Kohli's highly successful stint should not be judged on him not having led India to a global title in any format. "Many big players have not won a World Cup. That's alright. (Sourav) Ganguly, (Rahul) Dravid, (Anil) Kumble also have not won. So can we label them as bad players?
"You can't generalise. You go and play. How many World Cup winning captains do we have. Sachin Tendulkar had to play six World Cups before winning it.
"At the end of the day, you are judged by how you play, are you an ambassador of the game? Do you play the game with integrity, and do you play for a long period of time? That's how you judge players at the end of it all."
Speaking to Sports Tak, Shastri also suggested that India would do better not to name an official vice-captain, but pick one of the playing XI to do the job ahead of each game. Rohit Sharma, who is widely believed to be next is line to take up the captaincy in Test cricket, is currently India's vice-captain, following a long stint in the role by the out-of-form Ajinkya Rahane.
Asked who should be the next vice-captain if Rohit is promoted to the captaincy, Shastri said: "That will have to be seen. Rahul Dravid will have to see who's the right candidate. Because that player needs to be a certainty in the team, that's very important.
"I often think the vice-captaincy is made into too big an issue by people. Sometimes I think, 'Why do you even need to announce one (a vice-captain)?' Go to the ground and see, among those who fit into the XI, who is the most experienced and who can captain, make him the vice-captain.
"If you announce beforehand, then what happens if the player can't fit into the team? Then there will be a problem, because 'How can we drop the vice-captain?' Is there a rule in any coaching manual that you can't drop a vice-captain? Of course you can drop them. So if you have some doubts like that, don't announce the vice-captain at all. Say we'll go there and decide."
While Shastri didn't get drawn into who should or shouldn't be the vice-captain, he did say that Rishabh Pant's reading of the game made him a potential future leader.
"Rishabh is a tremendous young player. I say it openly, when I was a coach I was very fond of him," Shastri said. "And he listens too. Many people say that he plays how he wants, but that's not true. He always has the team's interest in mind. And I've always seen that he reads the game well. You should always keep in mind his leadership qualities for the future."