Ravi Shastri was on Friday re-appointed head coach of the Indian men’s team by the Kapil Dev-led Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), which unanimously felt that the incumbent’s “communication skills and understanding of team issues” stood out.
Shastri, who had the public backing of captain Virat Kohli even before the short-listing was initiated, has been reappointed for a two-year period, ending with the 2021 T20 World Cup in India.
“We have unanimously decided to appoint Ravi Shastri as the (head) coach of the Indian cricket team as you all were expecting,” CAC head Kapil Dev told mediapersons after the completion of the candidates’ interviews that took place through the day.
The three-member CAC also comprised former India coach Anshuman Gaekwad and ex women’s captain Shantha Rangaswamy.
This will be Shastri’s fourth stint with the national team, having served briefly as the Cricket Manager (2007 tour of Bangladesh), Team Director (2014-2016) and head coach (2017-2019).
Shastri pipped former New Zealand coach Mike Hesson, Australian Tom Moody and former India teammates Robin Singh and Lalchand Rajput to the post. Former West Indies and Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons pulled out of the race, citing personal reasons.
While Robin, Rajput and Hesson gave in-person presentations, Moody spoke to the panel over Skype from Australia.
“After doing all (interviews), Tom Moody was third after our marking and Mike (Hesson), an intelligent, young boy from New Zealand was a close second. It was a very close,” the former India captain said, implying that Lalchand Rajput and Robin Singh were far behind in the race.
The candidates were primarily marked on five aspects -- coaching philosophy, experience, achievements, communication and knowledge of modern tools.
A ‘very good’ had a 20-mark weightage while good carried 15. Average was 10 and poor was five.
“Everyone of us gave marks and honestly we never discussed which one of us gave how many marks. When we calculated, it was a very close race, I can tell you. I am not going to get into the details as to how much was the difference but it was a very small number (margin),” said Kapil.
In fact, the 1983 World Cup winning captain said that for him, his former teammate Shastri’s “communication skill” was one of the highlights during his presentation.
“I felt his (Shastri) communication skill was better and she (pointing at Shantha) might have felt something else. We were given a marksheet and we filled it up without discussing with each other,” he said.
Gaekwad felt that Shastri was “well versed with the Indian cricket system, and knew the boys and their problems well being the current coach.”
Once Kohli openly backed Shastri’s candidature at the pre-departure media conference before the ongoing West Indies tour, it was expected that the former India captain would be a favourite to retain the position.
However, Kapil reiterated that the committee never sought the Indian skipper’s opinion.
“Not at all, because if we take his (Kohli’s) views we would have taken the entire team’s views too. We haven’t asked anyone. There was no scope for that,” said Kapil when asked if the skipper’s preference influenced the final decision.
Among all the candidates, Shastri’s record was unmatched as the team reached the No.1 ranking in Test matches under his guidance and won a series in Australia for the first time in 71 years.
Since he came back in July, 2017 replacing Anil Kumble, whose differences with Kohli came out in the open, Shastri’s coaching record has been phenomenal.
India have won 11 out of 21 Tests, 43 out of 60 ODIs and 25 T20 Internationals out of 36 on his watch.
“If somebody knows players well and can communicate well, he has an advantage,” Gaekwad said about Shastri’s candidature.
On the flip side, India twice lost in the World Cup semi-finals (2015 and 2019) with him at the helm but that didn’t seem to have had a bearing on the decision taken by the committee that also comprised Shantha Rangaswamy and Anshuman Gaekwad.
Asked about the team’s semifinal exits in ICC competitions, Kapil said, “If any manager don’t win (a World Cup) with any team, they should be sacked? No, you look at overall picture and we are not looking at that, we are looking what presentation he has given, we have gone by that.”
Kapil, however, clarified that their committee is not aware of the terms of appointment and Shastri’s remuneration.
He also stated that their terms of reference, while conducting the interviews, was not based on their previous performance but on the “presentations” given and what the coaches felt about the way forward for Indian cricket.
Gaekwad also insisted that the process was “completely transparent”.
Kapil refused to divulge the details of Shastri’s presentation, which was made over a video call from Antigua and was the last of the day.
“That’s confidential. He gave a presentation of what he achieved in the last two years and how the team can improve further. He sought more time from the board to make this team stronger in the days to come.”
“All of them gave presentations on what’s the way forward and we weighed it along with the past performances and that swung it in Ravi Shastri’s favour,” Shantha Rangaswamy gave the concluding reply.