Ravi Shastri: Virat Kohli is like Imran Khan

Updated: Jan 15, 2020, 07:46 IST | Harit N Joshi | Mumbai

Head coach Ravi Shastri believes Indian skipper Virat Kohli has ex-Pakistani captain Imran Khan's passion and the will to win

India head coach Ravi Shastri during the Raymond Leadership Talk at JK House, Breach Candy on Monday. Pic/Shadab Khan
India head coach Ravi Shastri during the Raymond Leadership Talk at JK House, Breach Candy on Monday. Pic/Shadab Khan

Ravi Shastri's involvement with cricket over the last four decades in various capacities affords him an encyclopedic knowledge of the game and it showed at the Raymond Leadership Talk hosted by Gautam Singhania in Mumbai on Monday.

The head coach of the Indian team touched upon various aspects of Virat Kohli's team that makes them formidable. He also felt the current side could be rated as the best team of this century if they manage to win an ICC trophy.

Edited excerpts from Shastri's conversation with noted journalist Ayaz Memon:

On coaching Team India:
In 2014, I was happy doing television [commentary]. I got a couple of calls... "you have got to do it." And India was getting hammered in England. But from the commentary box, I saw this team has a lot of skills. I didn't like the way they played, I didn't like their approach to the game. At times, they were carrying some burden on them when they get on the park. You are playing a sport man! Get out there and enjoy - there are 50,000 people watching, billions round the world watching. Go out there with some drive and have some fun out there. You are not doing some desk job from 9 to 6. You are out there in the sun, chasing leather, beating leather and people watching. We had individual brilliance, but playing as a team, slowly the word 'I' started becoming 'we'. Then came the fast bowlers, then came Virat Kohli with his mindset to train. Once he started leading by example, the rest started following. Sooner or later, we had probably the best fielding sides ever on the park. Physical fitness led to mental fitness. Think big - this is what I tell the boys in the dressing room. You have to think big, dream big for things to happen. This won't happen overnight. There is nothing wrong or feel shy about. The end result is all that matters.

Imran Khan
Imran Khan

On losing 2019 World Cup semis to NZ:
We were gutted. There was deafening silence in the dressing room after we lost the semis. When we left that room after a couple of hours and reached our bus, there were at least 5000 fans waiting for us and telling us, 'well done guys, never mind' rather the other way round as it used to happen. They realised that we played our best cricket in the tournament. I don't think we spoke to each other for the next three days. It hurt us a lot because we deserved to be in the final especially with the way we played in the tournament. It hurt and it should hurt. The last thing I wanted was that a guy packs his bag and behave as if nothing has happened. I wanted it hurt them. We were bound to lose certain games. There was tremendous learning for them. That's why the respect I have for the boys after that is even greater. It would have been easy to be in a dejected mood and lose a couple of series [thereafter]. We went to the West Indies and we won everything. And we have won everything since. It was so easy to keep sulking. Three days after, the players channeled the disappointment in another direction which is positive. There is one thing in our team—there are no excuses. Great sides seize tough moments in a match. They [NZ] seized the moment, they beat us. But we have seized those moments many, many times in the past.

The takeaways from that defeat:
In those conditions, it was 15 minutes. It happened to us in the 2015 World Cup semi-finals where Rohit, Shikhar and Virat were out in 15 minutes. So how can we address that the next time? Can we put someone else in between where we not make it so top heavy, so that even if we lose two of them, we have someone to control things later on. I am saying split that Top Three.

On his coaching theory:
The greatest quality of a coach has to be of that of a parrot. Everyday repeat the same damn thing because in this game when you travel a lot and you play three different formats, you forget what's under your nose. You are looking there. You are looking that far ahead whether it may mean nothing to you now. Because of lack of attention to detail under your nose is where you are making the biggest mistake.

On Team India's goal:
The vision of the Indian cricket team is to be as consistent as they are right now and win one ICC tournament. If anything, this team lacks just that. And you have got three cracks at it… you have got the World Cup of Test cricket [Test Championship], and the two T20 World Cups. If this team takes one, they will go down in history as one of the greatest teams of the century not just Indian where they will be compared to the West Indies of the 1980s and Australia round the century. And this at the start of the century because that has won everywhere, won everything and won the big one as well.

On Kohli's captaincy:
Virat reminds me of Imran Khan. He's in your face. The passion he brings in the team...in many ways, Kapil Dev did that for us in the 1983 World Cup. The energy he brought rubbed off on others. Imran did that for Pakistan [in the 1992 World Cup]. He is totally in your face. Virat would be an absolute normal guy if he was here, chatting. You put on the whites and let him cross the boundary line, he is like a pitbull. He will be at you all the time. It comes naturally to him. It gets people out of their comfort zone. When we went to Australia [2018-19], we had decided if they say something, we will give it back. Agar teen diya toh hum dus denge… Hindi, Punjabi jo bhi mann main aaye. There one scrap that was happening with Virat and Shikhar got involved. And Puji [Cheteshwar Pujara] from behind didn't say and word but stood like this [with his chest in the front]. You will never accept that [from him], but because of the way we were playing and what had been decided, no one was backing off. It is a mindset. When Virat wants that, he wants that at any cost. Virat has over the years has learnt to handled things. The way he handles the media compared to what happened four years ago [in the 2015 World Cup], it is chalk and cheese.

On the mindset of the Indian team:
They believe they are one of the best teams in the world. They are the most popular teams in the world. Wherever they go, they know the opposition. They compete hard and we rarely drop our guard which I have not seen for a long time. I have been for around 40 years, and I have not seen that. They have enjoyed this journey with an Indian team going around the world, adapting to different conditions and beating sides whether it is the West Indies or whether it is Australia, you name it. What this side has done in the last five years, I don't think any Indian team has done that if you actually look at performance as a team. I am not talking of individuals, it is the Indian team. They have been outstanding. They feel that it is not one player… it is not two, three they are eight or 10 or sometimes all 11 competing on the field. There is a lot of competition and it is fabulous. Competing for places within the team is healthy as it keeps everyone on the toes. Once you take out that word 'I', you give the team importance and half the things start changing. You look at it in a different perspective. I, me, mera itna runs hai, itna hundreds hai [I have some many runs and so many centuries]. It is a combined thing. What has the team done? That is the biggest difference and it comes from the top… Virat, Rohit and all the way down.

On the pace bowling revelation:
This happened in Cape Town two years ago [2017-18]. We were coming to the ground and I told Arun [bowling coach Bharat] to get the fast bowlers for a chat. This was after the first innings where we bowled a lot of loose deliveries. I really let loose. I told them one thing… your Indian driving license does not work overseas. This is the last time I am seeing South African batsmen driving. Thereafter, they were nasty. The rest is history - bowling bouncers, bowling fast. Then came the belief. You have got to be harsh at times, you have got to be tough, but you have also got to respect because for the pressure they are under. The kind of pressure they are at the moment, I don't think any generation of [Indian] cricketers has seen that.

On team needing a psychologist:
I am there [for that]. That will be good to have at the National Cricket Academy (NCA). It will be very handful for a lot of young players. They have a lot of exposure and can get off the brails very quickly. So, for the age group of 16 to 19, it will be very useful. Not just psychologist, but also a financial [advisor] because a lot of players need that education and awareness. Their parents have to be spoken with [on managing finance]. This is all a part of the NCA. That's where your vision has to be. We [Rahul Dravid and I] are pretty much regularly discussing it. At the moment, it is more about fitness and things of that sort. He has a great vision. And Rahul being Rahul, with his attention to detail, I am sure he will get these things in place pretty soon.

On the conflict of interest issue:
It has to be spoken with the courts. You can't have a different set of rules for A and B. Everyone from outside is allowed to do multiple jobs when they come to India, but I am not allowed to do that as it is part of my contract. My masseurs and physios are not allowed to work with an Indian Premier League team. Now, what kind of conflict is there with them? None of my support staff is allowed to. Yet when we play Australia, I shake hands with Ricky Ponting, who is coaching Delhi Capitals. A video analyst with the South African team is sitting in a franchise dug out [during the IPL]. Somewhere it has to go back to the cricketers.

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