Indian captain Virat Kohli on Thursday backed head coach Ravi Shastri’s role in the team ahead of their departure for Australia, saying he has helped a lot of players bring out their best and that he is not a yes-man as has been made out in some quarters.
“The contribution that he [Shastri] has brought to the table ever since we started building this team is making people believe they belong at this level and I can vouch for it,” Kohli said in the pre-departure press conference ahead of the Australia tour.
“At a time when we were going through a difficult phase in England in 2014 – he has been the most important factor in helping me get out of my shell. Shikhar in the 2015 World Cup as well, he can vouch for that. To get the best out of the players, I think he’s been the most important factor,” he added.
Kohli also praised Shastri man-management, saying it is the most important factor at the level they play at. “A lot of people think we don’t understand the game enough and what needs to be done, that someone needs to literally tell us where the bat has to come from, where the head has to be but I think we have learned those things enough,” Kohli said. “It’s about man-management which Ravi bhai has done brilliantly in the time he’s been with us.”
When Shastri replaced Anil Kumble as head coach in 2017, one of the prevailing theories was that Kohli wanted someone he was close to and someone who is on the same page as himself. The Indian captain rubbished that sentiment.
“About [Shastri] saying ‘yes’ all the time [to me], that’s the most bizarre thing I’ve heard. I don’t think anyone has said no to me as much as him, honestly. He’s one guy I can speak to and get an honest opinion – if something doesn’t need to be done, he’ll tell you. I’ve made the most changes to my game listening to him [Shastri] than anyone else in the past,” Kohli said.
Shastri came under immense criticism after the England tour, with Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag among those who went on record questioning the former all-rounder’s role in the side.
“These are very personal things that happen within the team environment and things that conveniently need to be put out there are put out there,” Kohli said. “We are not going to take a banner and say, ‘This is what happens in the Indian team.’ As long as the heart is clear, we keep moving forward.”
Kohli said everyone is entitled to their opinions on the dynamics of the dressing room, but for his team everything has been organic and not fake.
“He [Shastri] will finish one day, I’ll finish one day but Indian cricket stays here. And we are just contributing to that. No one is here to gain something or dominate, we are all here to fulfil the responsibility of taking Indian cricket forward,” the captain said