Mumbai, January 1: Ravi Shastri, under whose coaching India enjoyed a successful 2019, said the team is ready for challenges in the New Year and India want to build on its success in 2020. Shastri also lauded Virat Kohli for leading the team with aplomb and said his maturity as captain will help the team in upcoming tough assignments.
Kohli has always maintained that succeeding in Test cricket is the real challenge. So how does it feel as the head coach of a team which has a skipper wanting to be the best in the Test format?
"Massive... not just for the Indian team, but the world when it comes to Test cricket. More than anything else, when a player like him endorses the game in an open manner where he is very clear what he wants out of Test cricket and that he enjoys that format the most," Shastri told IANS.
"So, as a young kid watching the game, when they see a superstar embracing Tests, you will want to emulate him whether you are an Indian, English, Australian, Pakistani or Sri Lankan," he said.
What helps Kohli and Shastri realise their dream of being the top performers in the longest format is a team of brilliant bowlers led by Jasprit Bumrah and ably assisted by the likes of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. The New Zealand series will once again need them to hold fort in conditions known to help fast bowling.
"Absolutely... no question about that. I was very clear in South Africa after we had a team meeting after the first day of the Cape Town Test. Then seeing what they did in the second innings, I had no doubt in my mind that if they carry on in this fashion, very soon you will be an attack that will have to be contended with. The fact that they learnt to bowl as a unit, you know made all the difference.
"You bat as a unit and the same goes for the bowling. You understand the situation and go with a common game plan. It is all related to team play. Once I knew that was happening in South Africa, I knew it was a matter of time for the world to notice," he said.
While the bowlers have been praised by one and all, an area of constant discussion has been the questions aimed at Kohli the skipper at regular intervals. But Shastri rubbishes them.
"I have not seen one perfect captain. You will have captains with different strengths and weaknesses. I have not seen any perfect captain till today.
"He might have great strength in one area and might be lacking in another where someone else will be better. So, you have to see the end result and what he makes of his strength and how it affects the team and the opponent.
"With Virat you can see he is someone who is improving by the day. The passion, the energy, the drive he brings to the cricket field is unmatched. I have not seen any other captain bring that kind of energy onto the cricket field.
"Tactically there are areas where by doing the job and getting the exposure he will get better. For whoever has captained in this game, there has been a learning curve.
"I can't think of one captain who didn't have to learn from day one. You learn from situations and what he has done is remarkable," said Shastri.
So, does that mean there are differences in opinions when the two sit down to discuss strategies? Or is the criticism that he is often happy to agree with Kohli, true?
"There is always room for fresh ideas. There will be discussions on that and it cannot be that everything you say is right. This team is open to reasoning and even the youngest member in the team can come up with a thought and at the end of the day, we put our heads combined to see what is best in the interest of the team," he said.