New Delhi: "Biggest load of bull**** I have been hearing", Indian cricket team's director Ravi Shastri said on Tuesday, dismissing reports of a rift between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
Shastri said the two players have utmost respect for each other and the Indian team was "one honest bunch" who believed in playing for each other. "It's (rift between Dhoni and Kohli) the biggest load of bull**** I have been hearing. It's one honest bunch who believes in playing for each other. That's why the results you have had over the last year, 70 percent of matches won," Shastri told PTI in an interview.
"You ought to see the respect they have for each other. Kohli is young, flamboyant, in-your-face character. He will learn with the exposure he gets. He is only 26, let him settle into captaincy for a year or two," he said.
Shastri spoke highly of current ODI captain Dhoni, calling him an all-time legend, who played on his own terms. "Dhoni is an all-time legend. He is the kind of bloke who plays on his own terms. It's best exemplified in the manner he quit Test cricket. I would have known many who would have loved to go for a 100-Test milestone," he said.
Asked whether young players like Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have settled in the team, Shastri said their best is yet to come. "They do carry a huge promise. All are young, in the 26- 28 age bracket. Their best is still ahead. It's not just the figures but their style of cricket that has heartened me. They didn't take a step back; they were in face of opposition and that warmed everyone's heart including Australians.
"Kohli was magnificent. We lost two Tests in Australia and in both of them we aimed wins. 400 runs in each of the four Tests. And the way we stepped up in the World Cup'a good team usually makes the big tournaments count. India raised the bar every time they took the field in the showpiece event."
Shastri also spoke about his experience with a young team, his own role in shaping their careers, the need to identify the pacers for different conditions and future of Indian cricket in the interview.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: You have had a run with the Indian team in England, Australia and now Bangladesh. As one in charge of the team for the past eight months, you have seen these boys in five Tests and some 25 ODIs. How settled is the bunch now?A: The context here is necessary. A win at Lord's in England. Then hammered out of sight in next three Tests. The boys literally had to pick themselves up from the shoelaces. That they did. And to have done so with the aggressive brand of cricket for eight months, including four Tests in Australia and World Cup, was heady. Even after we lost the first two ODIs in Bangladesh, all I told them was to enjoy the last game. I wanted them to remember they have had an outstanding year. That they had won against every country barring Australia on a cricket field.
Q: How about our bowling. Dhoni has been public in his disappointment with the pacers?
A: If we are to climb up the ladder, this is an area we need to pay attention. A Test is never won without 20 wickets. But it's no panic time yet. We just need to identify bowlers for different conditions, the classic case of horses for courses. It ought not to be all-pace on the subcontinental tracks. Accuracy and skills should count more. Bowlers who fit that bill should be encouraged.
Q: A lot of Indian batsmen give credit to you for adjustment in their techniques. Do you think India still needs a head coach?
A: It's just not me, but the entire support staff. These boys were willing to listen and make those little changes. That only comes out of trust and respect. They know what's in the dressing room, stays there. The three in support staff' Sanjay, Arun, Sridhar'haven't dropped from the heaven. They have been in the system for a long, long time. They have spent years on the field. They watched these boys while they were being hatched as cricketers. It's the comfort level between the players and support staff which bodes well. My take on head coach is its' BCCI's call. We already have three coaches plus me. A head coach just shouldn't fill the post but add value. Representing India shouldn't come easy, isn't it.
Q: And how do you see your own role within the team?
A: It's a responsible, challenging job. Thankless too. In a sensitive country like ours, we are expected to win always. And if you don't, be ready to receive a few kicks up your backside. My various roles in the game for the past 35 years, as a cricketer, administrator and a media professional, hold me in good stead. "For the moment, I would let go on media. Can't do two jobs in one go. But I am prepared to make that sacrifice. I have been in broadcast box for 20-plus years. Many more such seasons could be there in future. But it can all wait for the time being, barring IPL as I see no conflict (of interest) there.
Q: How do you look at the oncoming season?
A: We have a crowded season and some good cricket is coming up. Teams like Sri Lanka in their own backyard; South Africa in all conditions are tough. The boys would play the cricket as they did in the last season. The highlight was Australia where they looked to win at all times. Even in Bangladesh, we looked to force the result but could only have two days in the field. Win and win alone will again be our endeavour in coming months.