New Delhi: Sport coming to a standstill owing to the COVID-19 pandemic is a “welcome rest” for India cricketers, feels head coach Ravi Shastri, who has spent barely 10-11 days at home since leaving for the World Cup last May.
As with other sports across the world, cricket has also been affected with all international and domestic fixtures being called off due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
“(This rest) cannot be a bad thing because towards the end of the New Zealand tour, you could see some cracks coming up when it came to mental fatigue, physical fitness and injuries,” Shastri said.
He was speaking to former England captains Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain and Rob Key on a Sky Sports podcast.
According to Shastri, the players may use the time to re-energise themselves, especially after a gruelling New Zealand tour where India played five T20Is, three ODIs and two Tests.
“The amount of cricket we have played over the last ten months, that was beginning to take its toll. Guys like me, and some other guys from the support staff, we left India on May 23 for the World Cup in England. Since then we have been at home for 10 or 11 days.
“There are certain players who played all three formats, so you can imagine the toll it has taken on them, especially being on the field, adjusting from T20s to Test match cricket and all the travel that goes with that because we travelled quite a lot,” Shastri said.
After the World Cup, the Indian team travelled to the West Indies, then played a long home series against South Africa that was followed by a full tour of New Zealand.
Kohli is ‘boss’ of Indian cricket, support staff there to take burden off him: Shastri
New Delhi: Head coach Ravi Shastri has called Virat Kohli the “boss” of Indian cricket and said the support staff is there to “take the burden off” the skipper.
Batting mastero Kohli has been at the heart of India’s world-record 12 Test victories in a row on home soil.
“The captain is the boss, I always believe that. The job of the coaching staff, as far as I’m concerned, is to prepare the guys in the best possible way to be able to go out there and play brave, positive, fearless cricket,” Shastri said.
Shastri was speaking to former England captains Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton and Rob Key during a Sky Cricket Podcast.
“The captain leads from the front. Yes, we are there to take off the burden but you leave him to do his job in the middle. The captain sets the tone and is encouraged to set the tone. In the middle, he controls the show.”
Shastri, who took over as the head coach in 2017, largely attributed India’s march to top of the ICC Test rankings to Kohli.
He also spoke about how Kohli’s relentless focus on fitness rubbed on to his teammates.
“When you talk about fitness, the leadership came from the top and that is Virat. He is not a guy to mess around.
“He woke up one morning and said if ‘I want to play this game I want to be the fittest player in the world and compete against the best in all conditions’ and he let his body go through one hell of a lot.”
In recent years, Kohli is one of the very few regulars of the team to have played almost non-stop, across formats.
“It was not just the training but the sacrifices he made with his diet. I could see that change happening all the time. He got up one day and said ‘Ravi, I’m vegetarian!’
“When he sets those standards, it rubs off on others. Test cricket for us is the biggest form. It’s the benchmark. We want to set standards,” Shastri said.
“So it has been tough but a welcome rest for players,” the coach said.
India is currently in a 21-day lockdown and according to Shastri, his players knew something like this was imminent when the series against South Africa, right after the New Zealand tour, was called off.
“It came as a shock but to be honest, having been on the road during the South Africa series, we guys anticipated it,” he said.
“We knew something was on the cards as the disease had just started spreading. When the second ODI was called off, we knew something was gonna happen and a lockdown was imminent.”
The disease, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province, has so far claimed over 27,000 lives across the world.
“I think the players knew it was coming, they sensed it in New Zealand. There were apprehensions towards the end of that tour, when flights were coming through Singapore, out of Singapore.”
“By the time we landed (in India), I thought we got out at just the right time. There were only two cases in New Zealand at that time, that has rocketed now to 300.
“The day we landed, that was the first day they were screening and testing people at the airport. So (we came back) just in the nick of time.”
Shastri said that in such a situation, players could play a role by spreading awareness about this pandemic.
“As players, you have a lot of responsibility. That’s why the message is very clear that cricket should be last on everyone’s mind now,” he said.
“I think the most important thing is safety and not ensuring just your safety but ensuring safety of others as well, by creating a kind of awareness that tells people there is something serious around.
“Virat has done it, a lot of other players have done it by posting certain messages on social media. They knew that it’s something very serious and there could be a hold up in cricket for some time.