As we are a few months away from entering a new decade, I’ve been thinking about all the great Test matches that have occurred over the past ten years.
Ravi Shastri’s appointment as India’s coach until the Twenty20 World Cup in 2021 is not an entirely surprising one.
Big guns such as Gary Kirsten and Mahela Jayawardene were rumoured to be interested in the post but did not apply. Key BCCI figures backed Shastri so the announcement was a mere formality.
India have won a lot of series home and away under Shastri’s tenure, attaining then maintaining the No.1 Test ranking in the world.
A first Test series win in Australia was followed by victorious ODI series in Australia and New Zealand. Even South Africa were beaten in their backyard by the margin of 5-1 in an ODI series.
But there were a few significant losses, as well – notably India’s loss at home to a weak Australian ODI team and losing in the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup. There were seven Test losses against across South Africa, England and Australia in 2018. After the 2013 Champions Trophy win, India haven’t won an ICC tournament.
Over the next two years, India have ten Test matches lined up against England home and away, plus four away Tests against Australia.
Shastri will want to win the T20 World Cup and the Test series in England, which have eluded him in the past.
Ravi Shastri will have to develop a talent pool that will carry the Indian team for the next decade or so. The likes of Mayank Agarwal, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Khaleel Ahmed need backing. These players had an excellent start to their international careers, and having the confidence of team management in the tough patch will go a long way as they look to establish themselves in the side.
India can ill afford to lose a talent such as Prithvi Shaw. Shaw has been in the news for all wrong reasons because of suspension and injuries. Shastri’s challenge will be to ensure the re-integration of Shaw into the national team and keeping him away from distractions.
Shubman Gill isn’t far away from being rewarded for his consistent domestic success. How smoothly the transition from the domestic set-up to international cricket goes will be vital for Gill’s success.
In Test cricket, the form of Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin has been flaky for some time. Both are pillars of the Indian Test team and have been plagued by poor form or injury in the last year.
Shastri’s role will be to make both players feel wanted and not left out as deadwood. Both players are in their early 30s and can be a big part of future Indian victories in the next five years.
Under Ravi Shastri’s tutelage, India have won 25 out of 36 T20 internationals. But losses to Australia and New Zealand should make Indian team management rethink their strategy with two World Cups in sight, in Australia next year then on home soil in 2021.
India viewed T20 as an extension of ODI cricket, preparing for the 2019 World Cup but not beyond. A total revamp of the T20 squad could be in order.
Hardik Pandya’s workload will be a big concern. Back injuries have flared up time and again for Hardik. His hitting abilities in the death overs plus his capacity as a breakthrough bowler in the middle overs are both valuable assets for India.
How Shastri and co. decide to use Pandya will be vital, as he will be essential on the big grounds in Australia next T20 World Cup.
Navdeep Saini had a fantastic debut against the West Indies, winning man of the match on his bow, and his raw pace has excited Virat Kohli. He could make a transition into Test cricket just as Jasprit Bumrah did in 2018.
Add Mohammed Shami to the mix with both quicks, India’s bowling pool will be strong unlike before. The team management’s role will be charting out workload management for those quicks, given the hectic international schedule.
Krunal Pandya is getting better with each match that he plays for India and his performance against the West Indies is a testimony to it. Can he become a strike bowler in the spin department? That will be the next big step up for elder Pandya.
He has shown his batting abilities in IPL for last three seasons, as well as in the limited opportunities he’s had playing for India. Krunal is another three-dimensional cricketer that could make the Indian batting look long down the order.
With the challenges that lie ahead, Ravi Shastri has got to hit the ground running.
But should he succeed, he would go down as India’s most successful coach.