Former head coach Ravi Shastri said he will be happy that if his comments on Kuldeep Yadav becoming India's No.1 overseas bowler have upset Ravichandran Ashwin and spurred him on bowl better.
In a recent interview with ESPNCricinfo, Ashwin said that he was 'absolutely crushed' by Shastri's comments. Shastri's words came after the off-spinner was injured before the opening Test against Australia in Adelaide in 2018 as India replaced him with Kuldeep Yadav, who claimed 5-99 in the match.
"One thing as a coach, let me tell you... my job out there is not to butter everyone's toast," Shastri told Indian Express.
"My job is, without agenda, to state facts and say the way it is. Ashwin didn't play the Test match in Sydney. Kuldeep played, took a five-for, and bowled brilliantly. So, it was only fair that I give the young kid who is probably playing his first or second Test match overseas...and he bowled magnificently in that Test match. He bowled as well as any spinner overseas in that Test match. So, I said the way he's bowled here, there's every chance he could be India's No.1 [spin] bowler overseas.
Shastri complimented Ashwin for carrying on with his job to do better for the team. The off-spinner recently became India's third highest Test wicket-taker and has 427 scalps to his name, eight shy of Kapil Dev's tally.
"Now if that hurt some other player, then I would say good. In hindsight, I'm glad I made that statement and Ashwin has made this statement because if it hurt him and he was upset, I'm glad the way he went about his job. I'm the kind of coach who will want a player to go inside and say 'I'm going to show his coach I'm going to teach him a lesson and show him what I'm all about'.
Shastri felt that Ashwin's improved performances were due to his improved fitness which was the main concern for the spinner throughout 2019 and 2020.
"It was a message clearly to him that you've got to be fit. We need players to play the whole series. So, that happened in 2018 and 2019 again he was injured. So, what did he do after that in those two years? I think he's worked harder on his game than anybody else and he's world-class," he said.
"Let me tell you he's the best spinner in the world now. The way he's bowling now and the way he's worked on his fitness and if you look at the way he's bowling of late, I think he has a great opportunity now that he's the lone frontline spinner there in South Africa to go out there and win the series for India."
Talking about the Virat Kohli-BCCI saga, Shastri said: "I've been part of the system for many, many years, especially (I've) been part of the team for the last seven years. I think, with good communication, this can be handled much, much better. Instead of it being out in public domain, it can be handled in much better fashion. So, if you look at things, as it stands now, all it needs is a little more communication.
"Virat has given his side of the story. It needs the president of the board to come and give his side of the story or give some clarification on whatever has happened. It's not a question of who's lying here. The question is: what is the truth? We want to know the truth and that can only come with dialogue and communication and nothing else... You need dialogues from both sides and not one side."