Former India all-rounder Ravi Shastri’s more than a four-year-long stint as the head coach of the Indian side would go down as one of the most glittering ones in the country’s cricketing history. Shastri did not have an ICC trophy to show like a John Wright or a Gary Kirsten but the historic Test series wins in Australia (twice) and in England (India led the series 2-1 when the final match was postponed), put him right in the top bracket. India enjoyed unprecedented success in red-ball cricket during Shastri’s tenure between 2017 and November 2021. This was Shastri’s first stint as head coach of the side but he had worked with Team India as the team director twice. Once briefly in 2007 during the Bangladesh tour and secondly, for two years starting from 2014.
Talking about the circumstances that led to his appointment as the team director in 2014, Shastri said he had received ‘no warning’.
“I had no warning. I was commentating at the Oval during India’s  tour of England and came off air to find six or seven missed calls. ‘Seven bloody calls? What’s happened here?’. [The BCCI] just said: ‘We want you to take over, starting tomorrow, at any cost.’ I told them I’d have to speak to my family and commercial partners but they just said they would sort all that out. And like that I was straight in from the commentary box. You’ll see when I joined the setup [during the ODIs], I was still in jeans and loafers. Instantly my job changed,” Shastri told The Guardian.
After Shastri’s two-year stint as the team director, former India captain Anil Kumble was appointed as the head coach in 2016. The legendary cricketer stepped down after the 2017 Champions Trophy. Shastri then took charge as the head coach and remained in the position till the T20 World Cup in 2021.
Shastri said the first thing on his agenda was to build a strong pace attack so that India can win overseas Tests.
“We also had slingers [coaches with dogsticks] in the nets smashing the ball in at 160kph from 16 yards. Guys had no choice. There was no dodging, I’d stand behind the stumps to make sure of that. No matter who the person was, he had to go through that. The slingers would seriously let it rip and guys would look ugly. But you are meant to look ugly in the nets. In England you have to grind and earn your runs.
“The same with the bowlers, we told them to stick in because there is a five-wicket session at any given time in England and at Lord’s and the Oval this decided the result. And we knew winning in Australia or England wasn’t coming with spin, it was fast bowlers, guys with aggression like Jasprit Bumrah. We were instrumental in making sure that guy played Test cricket. You don’t even need express pace, you just need attitude.”
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