“With the volume of cricket that exists today, it’s extremely important that you get the balance right of how much a player plays. When should he be rested? And there, a (BCCI) president can play a big role. Tomorrow, if a cricketer, for the sake of playing for India, needs to be rested in the IPL for a certain number of games, so be it. Where, a (BCCI) president has to sit with the franchise and explain that he’s extremely important for India first, and then the franchise,” Shastri stressed while talking to veteran journalist Ayaz Memon at a ‘Meet-the-media programme’ at the Mumbai Press Club on Wednesday.
“Discussions can take place with the team management, as to which are the players who need rest, who, if they carry on in this fashion, will be spent forces. And then take that forward to the franchise. In no way getting in the way of the franchise, but in a nice way telling them that he’s an important player for India. National interest is paramount,” Shastri outlined.
He also expressed his concern at India’s premier pacers breaking down frequently despite rehabilitating for long periods at the National Cricket Academy. “It was the most frustrating thing for me as (India coach), when you lose key players to injuries. We toured England and New Zealand twice. On all those tours, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was injured, where he’d have got a bagful of wickets with his skills. Now, you see Chahar has hardly played, and he’s injured. I was looking at the stats, Bumrah has played 5 matches since the last T20 World Cup and he’s injured. So, you’ve got to look at it very seriously, as to why it is happening,” Shastri said.
Shastri stressed that as the BCCI president, Binny must also focus on improving facilities for spectators at stadiums. “Binny is a very amiable guy, he has got a mind of his own. He might not be a flippant type, but when he opens his mouth, I’m sure that he will be heard, especially on cricketing matters. One area that he would look into and Indian cricket must look into is the fact that you have to make Indian cricket a spectator friendly sport, so for me, the most important thing is that the facilities at the ground should be upgraded big time. It should be insisted upon, with the kind of bucks coming into the sport, the kind of people who come into the ground, they’ve got to get the best facilities. If that happens, the popularity of the sport will soar even further” Shastri stressed.
Shastri was naturally pleased that his 1983 World Cup winning teammate Roger Binny is now set to become the president of the BCCI. “I’m delighted, because he was my colleague in the World Cup. There’s continuity there because he was the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association. So, he moves on to become the president of the BCCI. And I’m extremely happy because he’s a World Cup winner, who’s the president for the first time in the history of the BCCI. His credentials are unquestionable. He’s got all the boxes ticked to take up this post,” Shastri praised.
‘I’d give Surya a crack at Test cricket’
If Shastri had his way, dashing batsman Suryakumar Yadav, who’s been in blazing form in T20Is, having scored 1,045 runs in 34 firstname.lastname@example.org at a phenomenal strike rate of 176.81, would soon make his debut in Test cricket. “I’d love to give him a crack at Test cricket as well. If I was captaining the side, he would be very much in the mix for me. Just to surprise the opposition in the middle order and take the game away (from them). I mean, there’s no rule that he cannot play in the biggest format of the game,” Shastri said.
Explaining what makes ‘Sky,’ currently the No 2 batsman in T20Is, so unique, Shastri said, “A combination of everything, but what I like about his game is his reading of the game and of the bowler’s mind. He’s playing with the bowler’s mind, with the bowlers’ field. He’s got the audacity to try and hit the ball against which the field is placed, which means that you need to get into position early. So, I think his anticipation, reading of what a bowler does, plays a huge role in his batting, and he’s been brilliant in doing that. You’ll see some shots that he plays. I’ve not seen too many players play those shots. AB (de Villiers) at his prime probably did this for a bit. You don’t hit a ball from middle and leg to the sightscreen at the back! I mean, it was an unheard of a shot in our time. But he does it so easily and regularly, that you’ve to take your hat off to him. He can light up the T20 World Cup.”
‘This is India’s best batting line-up ever’
Shastri heaped lavish praise on India’s current batting line-up, calling it “the best India have had in the last 6-7 years in T20Is.” “I think this is as good a batting line-up as India has ever had in T20 cricket. With Surya (Suryakumar Yadav) at No 4 Hardik (Pandya) at No 5, Rishabh/DK at 6, they’ve made a massive difference. It allows the top-order to play the way they are playing, which is tremendous-they’re taking the attack to the opposition. Where, if you’re 2-down in the powerplay, you still have the ammunition at the back, to consistently take on the bowlers, which wasn’t the case for some time,” he complimented.
Shastri felt that India’s firebrand, star-studded batting line-up will give them a huge chance of winning the T20 World Cup that starts in Australia later this month. “The Australian tracks suit their batting. We’re one of the best batting sides in the tournament. And once you’ve the best side of the tournament, irrespective of how your bowling or fielding is, you’ve a chance to win the cup. You qualify for the semifinals, your batting takes off, you can beat any opposition on that day,” he said.
Putting a finger on the reason for the slump in India’s fielding, Shastri said, “for a lot of time, we were amongst the best fielding sides in the world. I think the emphasis on fitness becomes very critical. In my time, we had the yo-yo (test). People laughed at it. Yo-yo was never for selection, it was creating awareness amongst the players: ‘Get fit. And it’s only better for you.’ It made a massive difference. Not just in the way they played, but the way they moved on the field. I mean, the number of run outs they could create, from nowhere, is unreal. And what is worrying is the number of times you’ve allowed the opposition to score over 200 in the last few months. People will blame the bowling. It’s also the fielding, where if you save those 20 runs, that 200 becomes 175-180.”
“Come what may, I see India having a new team after this T20 World Cup, much like the team that went (to South Africa for the World Cup in 2007, when there was no Tendulkar, Dravid or Ganguly, and MS Dhoni captained a team of youngsters in the first T20 World Cup. That can happen,” he predicted.