Why Ravi Shastri was re-appointed India head coach in 2019? Former CAC member Anshuman Gaekwad reveals
In a chat with Hindustan Times, Anshuman Gaekwad, who was part of the CAC that went ahead with Ravi Shastri, revealed one of the reasons behind re-appointing him as coach in 2019.
In August of 2019, the Cricket Advisory Committee was tasked with a huge responsibility of appointing the next head coach of the Indian cricket team. This time around, Ravi Shastri, whose first term as coach starting in 2017 ended with India's exit from the 2019 World Cup, faced stiff competition from candidates with an impressive coaching resume. Mike Hesson and Tom Moody were top contenders, while the CAC had also interviewed Robin Singh and Lalchand Rajput. Phil Simmons had pulled out, but it was still a big fight for one of the most scrutnised positions in Indian cricket.
And yet, Shastri emerged as the unanimous winner, as chairman of the committee, Kapil Dev announced. He, along with Anshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy were convinced no one is more qualified to take charge of the Indian team than the former India all-rounder. The decision surprised few, expectedly, as Shastri has always been involved with cricket – as a cricketer, as a commentator, a member of the ICC Cricket Committee, team director and more. Even before he landed his first official coaching job with the Indian team, Shastri had served as the manager of the Indian team during the tour of Bangladesh in 2007.
If Shastri bragged of an impressive CV at the end of his first coaching stint, it has only gotten stronger as his second approaches its end. India reached the final of the World Test Championship and registered arguably one of their most memorable Test series wins of all time as they beat Australia in Australia for the second consecutive time to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Add to that India's continued brilliance at home and sparks of it overseas, and Shastri seems almost irreplaceable.
In a chat with Hindustan Times, Gaekwad, who was part of the CAC that went ahead with Shastri, revealed one of the reasons behind re-appointing him as coach in 2019. Besides his achievement in the first stint – where India finished finalists in the 2017 Champions Trophy and semi-finalists at the 2019 World Cup, Gaekwad explained there was another factor that worked hugely towards Ravi Shastri, which his competitors lacked.
"See, Ravi had an advantage among the others who were in fray for the coaching job. Myself, Kapil Dev and Shantha… we did the selection. He was in touch with cricket by virtue of being a commentator. He had seen cricket and not only of one country but world cricket from a very close quarter. He knew exactly how things go about – winning or losing. He knew how matches and situations turn around. What one does to do it? He was in touch and knew the Indian players well and players knew him well. What else do you want?" Gaikwad said.
No one knows what the BCCI has in mind. Could Rahul Dravid coaching the Indian team in Sri Lanka be a pre-curser of what's in store, or is it merely a one-time thing? But one thing is certain: The Shastri-Kohli combination has done remarkably well for India, even though Gaikwad reckons the pair of a coach and captain can only do so much. Back when he was coach of the Indian team, it boasted the best of players – probably the most famous lot – but team results did not compliment individual greatness.
"It's not only coach and captain. That's a wrong concept people have. It's the coach and the team. A captain alone can't do anything. He needs another 10 to do it. Similarly, coach and captain can't do everything. That has been my experience. I had the best of the guys - Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Laxman, Sourav, Rahul. What else do you want? And in the bowling, Anil, Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, and it worked," Gaekwad said.
"It was important to keep them together, keep them focussed, and the best part what has happened now is the way Virat has put the slab up of performance and fitness, everyone knows that they have to keep themselves fit and perform. If they don't, there are players waiting in the cue."
It has been 20 long years since Gaikwad last coached the Indian team. In these last two decades, he has witnessed a rapid and drastic evolution. From the rise of T20 cricket to India being crowned world champions twice, to the Men in Blue emerging as world beaters. But like the old adage goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
"There were a lot of youngsters that were coming up. I did Under-19 before coaching the Indian team and I suppose, it was only a question of time. Since then, it was building up well. To be very frank, cricket has changed but the basics don't change. There has been improvisation which has come in and that has impacted T20 cricket," Gaikwad added.
"If you look at the first IPL, and the 14th IPL, if you compare the way the bowlers bowled, the batsmen batted, all are still playing cricketing shots. The basics are always more effective and more dangerous, less harmful, less risky."