Former head coach Ravi Shastri feels that Ajinkya Rahane was a certainty to make the Indian squad for the World Test Championship final against Australia once Shreyas Iyer was ruled out due to a lower-back stress fracture.
The WTC final will be played at the Oval in London from June 7-11.
Shastri, who coached the Indian team for six out of seven years between 2014 to 2021, sarcastically commented that people who presumed that the former India captain made it to the Test team on basis of three IPL knocks, “must have been on holiday when he scored 600 plus runs in domestic cricket.” “I’m so glad he’s made it to the side. He batted beautifully in these two-three games he’s played in the IPL, has looked in great touch. And let’s not forget the experience he has. The moment Shreyas Iyer was injured, you had to look in that direction,” Shastri told ESPN Cricinfo.
Rahane’s pedigree is such that he always had a shot, considering his contribution as a skipper to one of India’s greatest Test triumphs overseas when the team won in Australia in 2021.
“Absolutely, it’s a one-off big game, like the Super Bowl, and you need your experienced player. Don’t forget just two-and-a-half years ago, the man won a Test series in Australia. He was the captain when Virat went (on paternity leave) and did a sterling job.” Shastri termed Rahane’s comeback as a reward for his impressive domestic show.
“People think he’s just played three IPL games and that’s why he’s in the side. They must have been on holiday for six months when he was playing first-class cricket. They must’ve been somewhere in the jungle where there’s no contact with anyone in the world. When you go six months into a holiday, you miss those 600 runs.”
Shastri said that Rahane’s comeback is also somewhat similar to another veteran Cheteshwar Pujara, who made his case after scoring truckloads of runs for Sussex in County cricket.
“People forget that hundred at the MCG, the way he (Rahane) played, and the fact that hes gone back to the grind. You saw what it did with Pujara, he went back to the grind playing domestic cricket, playing county cricket, just got the number of runs under his belt, then came back into Test cricket and performed. “It’s the same thing with Rahane, let’s hope that experience comes handy.” Rahane has scored a 27-ball-61 against Mumbai Indians and a 29-ball-71 against KKR and Shastri did admit that watching his current rhythm has also helped the fellow Mumbaikar’s cause.
“Oh, a lot, because the memory is fresh. Domestic cricket was over two months ago. People might tend to forget it, even the selectors. Suddenly you come in and play that kind of innings where you look at ease, the timing is good, the footwork is good, the confidence is good, it would have definitely helped.”
“Coach should be invited for selection meetings”
The BCCI constitution doesn’t mandate a national coach to participate in selection meetings and it is only skipper who can attend but without a voting right.
Asked about team selections during his tenure, Shastri said: “I have zero first-hand experience (of attending selection meetings). Seven years I was part of the team, I never went near a selection meeting. I wasn’t invited either. I think in the long run, yes (a coach should be invited).”
While he didn’t name anyone, Shastri did take a dig at some former officials, who he felt attended selection meetings unconstitutionally.
Shastri has time and again made his dislike for a former BCCI office-bearer apparent and has used every forum that he has got to take sly digs at his “bete noire”.
“From what I gather, there were a lot of people (in the meetings), over the last three-four years, inside selection meetings, not supposed to be there, against the constitution but pitched up.” Shastri opined that for a coach, it is always important to know what the selectors are thinking.
“You spend a lot of time with the boys, it’s important, even if not in voting capacity, but to hear what the selectors are thinking, what is their train of thoughts are.
“And then to decide what could be the right thing for the side. I have zero idea how it starts, how it finishes, who are there in the meeting.”
The former India all-rounder said that he deliberately stayed away to earn trust of players.
“I needed the trust of the player,” Shastri explained.
“If a player knew I was a selector or I could influence a selector/chairman of the committee, then will he open up to me? “Will he have the same trust in me? There could be a certain people who will come and still be open and upfront, there could be a certain people who might not want to, and I don’t blame them because they may have some reservations.”
“From my point of view, thats why I thought its best to stay away, but in the long run, especially when a team is in the rebuilding stage, its extremely important that a coach who spends a lot of time with the players within the confines of the dressing room can give some valuable inputs.”
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