'Rohit, Dravid won't make the same mistake': Sridhar on Kohli-Shastri 'blunder' | Crickit
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'I don't see Rohit, Dravid making the same mistake': R Sridhar highlights Kohli-Shastri 'blunder'; 'It was a shocker'

By, New Delhi
Feb 23, 2023 02:43 PM IST

R Sridhar, who was part of India's support staff as the team's fielding coach, and enjoyed his time with the team, rued one big missed opportunity by Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, which he feels Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma won't repeat.

Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri transformed Indian cricket in more ways than one – revolutionising fitness standards, making sure India reached the semifinal of the 2019 World Cup, final of the inaugural World Test Championship and winning consecutive Test series in Australia. One of their biggest goals – which both Kohli and Shastri had said on record – was to make India a strong travelling unit – and boy, they set the benchmark in it. However, a silverware eluded India while Kohli and Shastri was in charge. Their best chance was the 50-over World Cup in England, where despite finishing as the top-ranked team after the group stage, they ended up losing the semifinal to New Zealand.

The Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid pair appears to give players a longer run compares to Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri(Getty)
The Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid pair appears to give players a longer run compares to Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri(Getty)

R Sridhar, who was part of India's support staff as the team's fielding coach, and enjoyed his time with the team, however, rued one big missed opportunity. Heading into the World Cup, India had all its bases covered barring one – a solid No. 4 batter. Through the tournament, India tried out different candidates but come game day, it came to haunt India. Till this date, Sridhar regrets the No. 4 conundrum, which he claims could have been avoided.

Also Read - 'He was about to be dropped but Virat Kohli backed him and said, 'I want him in the XI'': Dinesh Karthik

"Many of the decisions we took didn't yield the desired result, though the biggest mistake was something that came about despite the lack of time pressure. I am referring, of course, to the No. 4 position for the 2019 World Cup, although we had four full years from 2015 to identify and get someone settled at that pivotal spot. No. 4 is such a crucial position in the batting order. He is expected to be the kind of player who takes the baton from the openers, from the top three, it on to the finishers. You need to have someone who and passes can strike at 80-90 per 100 balls for the most part and finishes his innings with a strike rate of 100. It's an acquired skill; it doesn't come naturally to everyone. Unfortunately, we didn't give anyone a chance to settle down, fail and learn," Sridhar wrote in his book 'Coaching Beyond'

"We wanted results immediately and so if someone failed in two or three games, we moved on to the next guy. I really have no excuses; we had the same batting coach (Sanjay Bangar) for that entire period, the same fielding coach (yours truly) for the entirety except for the tour of the West Indies in 2016. The head coach (Ravi Shastri) and the bowling coach (Bharat Arun) weren't around for a year when Anil Kumble was in charge. But all told, we had ample time to button down a suitable candidate for that position. To me, in hindsight, the inability to do so was a mistake that was very much controllable; this was a process-driven mistake. Multiple factors contributed to a blunder that would come back and bite us when it mattered the most."

Surprisingly enough, it's staggering to know that between the tour of Sri Lanka in August-September 2017 and the start of our World Cup campaign in June 2019, India tried out 10 different batters at the No. 4 position in 49 games. Ambati Rayudu, who played all major tournaments, including the Asia Cup and the tour of New Zealand just before the World Cup, was shockingly dropped from the World Cup squad. Instead, all-rounder Vijay Shankar was slotted into the squad after Shikhar Dhawan was out injured following a fractured thumb. KL Rahul, who began batting at No. 4 was promoted to open with Rohit Sharma, with Shankar batting at No. 4. But after 4 games, the Tamil Nadu all-rounder injured his foot and was replaced by Rishabh Pant. But unfortunately, it was all too late. Sridhar feels that while the previous support staff couldn't handle it well, the current regime under Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma will certainly deal with it better

"Nothing was spoken about the No. 4 position; it was all but taken for granted. That is just a very poor look, with the benefit of hindsight. We missed a major trick and that did us in the end as far as the tournament was concerned. Except Ambati Rayudu, no one played more than seven games in that slot. At home against Sri Lanka in December 2018, MS and Dinesh Karthik batted at two-down; when we went to South Africa in early January, Ajinkya Rahane batted there for the entire series. In England that summer, it was KL Rahul. I can see where we messed up," added Sridhar.

"I agree that was out of character for a support group which got a lot of other things right. I mean, we are talking about Ravi, Sanjay, Arun, Virat and myself it was a shocker from us. We were unsuccessful in giving anyone the confidence to grow into that position, and it was no surprise that when it mattered the most, we were found wanting. Perhaps we got carried away by the fact that we had a gun top-three-Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli — and two exceptional finishers in MS and Hardik, and therefore overlooked the significance of No. 4. When push came to shove, we couldn't respond. I know it's not my place to say so, but there is a lesson in it for think tanks going forward. I can say with reasonable confidence that I don't see Rohit and Rahul Dravid making the same mistake."

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