Shastri, whose tenure with the Indian team ended after the final World Cup game against Namibia on Monday, said the players needed a longer break between the IPL and World Cup.
“One thing I would say — this is not an excuse, but this is a fact. When you’re six months in a bubble, this team, there are a lot of players on this team who play all three formats of the game,” said Shastri in the media interaction after the Namibia game.
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“In the last 24 months, they’ve been home for 25 days. I don’t care who you are, if your name is Bradman, if you’re in a bubble as well, your average will come down because you’re human,” he added.
The Indian team came into the IPL in the UAE after a four-month long and gruelling tour of England. Skipper Virat Kohli too has spoken about how the bubble life is not sustainable in the long run.
“This is not something where you just put petrol on the back side and expect the guy to move on in overdrive. It doesn’t happen that way. So I think it’s tough times.
“That’s why I say in life it’s not what you accomplish, it’s what you overcome. That’s what this team has done. They’ve shown the drive to hang in there, no complaints. But sooner or later, the bubble will burst. So you’ve got to be careful,” said Shastri.
Ahead of the game against Namibia, Shastri had told Star Sports that players were mentally and physically drained after living in a protected environment.
“I am mentally drained but I expect that at my age but these guys are physically and mentally drained. Six months in a bubble…
“What we would have ideally liked was a bigger gap between the IPL and the T20 World Cup…(because) when the big games come, when pressure hits you, you are not that switched on as you should be,” he added.
Shastri became the director of the Indian cricket team in 2014 for a period of eight months from the tour of England till the 2015 World Cup. He was removed in 2016 but on July 13, 2017, he was appointed the head coach of the Indian team, reuniting with Kohli to forge a cracking partnership.
The highlight of his tenure was back to back Test series wins in Australia.
Ravi Shastri, who completed his highly eventful tenure as India’s head coach, feels that Rohit Sharma is “ready and capable” to take over the T20 captaincy from Virat Kohli and sharing the leadership burden isn’t such a bad idea in a post COVID-19 world.
Rohit, who will be taking over T20 captaincy from the New Zealand series, is also being tipped to lead India in the 2023 ODI World Cup and the formal announcement in that regard may happen sooner than later.
“I think in Rohit, you have got a very capable guy. He has won so many IPLs, he is the vice-captain of the team, he is ready (waiting) in the wings to take that job,” Shastri said.
He, in fact, welcomed the idea of Rohit leading in shorter formats and Kohli captaining in Tests.
“I think multiple captains is not such a bad thing because of the bubble and so much cricket being played, the players need to be rotated around and given the space they need to spend some time with their families and see their parents.
“When a guy doesn’t go home for six months he might have his family with him but you have parents and other family and if you don’t get a chance to see them, it’s not easy at all, so I think it’s not such a bad thing,” he opined.
Shastri is convinced that despite their indifferent performance in this edition of the T20 World Cup, India will continue to be a very strong team in the shortest format in near future.
“…because IPL throws a lot of young players into the mix and Rahul (Dravid) will have his own ideas on how to take this team forward. I see this still to be a very good team.”
Lack of bowling options hurt, admits Shastri
In a roundabout manner, Shastri admitted that lack of back-up bowling options hurt the team as Hardik Pandya wasn’t fully fit to bowl his full quota of overs.
“It always helps when you have one or two guys in the top order who can bowl. We had that in the past and unfortunately we don’t have too many now and so that might be the way to go — to ensure that we have a couple of guys who can roll their arms over.
“Even if it’s four overs between them, that will help,” he said, making his viewpoint clear.
Gap between IPL and T20 World Cup was necessary
Shastri didn’t endorse the common theory that India not playing too many T20 matches as a team was the reason for the debacle.
“The cricket itinerary is so packed that they can do only one thing at a time. At least they played some T20 cricket. I just wish the gap was a little more. that’s it.”
So, did he speak to BCCI brass about the issue? Shastri was dismissive.
“See, that is not my job, first of all. It was already done, that is something I am sure the administrators, not just for India, the BCCI, you know, it’s the others around the globe who will also be looking at it.
“To ensure before big tournaments that there is a little bit of gap, so that the guys are mentally fresh and ready to play.”
But can any India player, without feeling insecure about his place, opt for rest?
“Absolutely. The communication has been free. We have managed players. You know with the training methods and everything and…we were never short on communication, everyone was free to speak, no one was treated as a junior, no senior-junior in this side, everyone had the freedom to express themselves.”
“Emotional”, but leaving this team in a better state
He admitted that he was feeling “very emotional” having been part of this set-up for close to six and half years.
But does he feel that there’s anything missing from his experience?
“I don’t look at missing parts. When I took over there were 10 missing parts. Now there are only two,” the straight-talking coach said.