The humiliating defeat in the second Test against England has firmly grounded the powerful captain-coach combination of Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, who had been flying high on the success of their home run. It was a much-needed reality check for the duo, who many fear wield absolute authority in Indian cricket.
It was no surprise then that the chorus for Shastri’s ouster grew in the aftermath of the Lord’s debacle. Shastri’s position will become untenable if India goes on to lose the series 0-5, at which point even his staunchest supporter, Kohli wouldn’t be able to stop the axe from falling on the coach.
While fans on social media have been urging the BCCI to take stern action, former players such as Harbhajan Singh and Sandeep Patil have also trained their guns on Shastri. “The coach has to come on record. He is answerable to everyone. If India loses the series, then he might have to eat his words and admit that conditions do make a lot of difference,” says former India off-spinner Harbhajan scathingly.
There has been a suggestion that Shastri should be replaced with Rahul Dravid, who is currently coaching India ‘A’. Former India opener Aakash Chopra feels ‘The Wall’ could turn out to be India’s saviour. “There’s just one person who can help the team come to grips with the conditions and instill in them the temperament needed to thrive there. India needs Rahul Dravid once again. This time, as a batting consultant,” says Chopra.
While Kohli’s batting was the lone bright spark in India’s narrow defeat in the first Test, the skipper was bogged down by a back injury in the second. As captain, however, Kohli made a few startling selection blunders in both matches. He also faces criticism for constantly tinkering with his playing XI and not giving players enough confidence. His instinctive picking of the playing XI has not clicked in the last five Tests. Another mistake pointed out by former players including Sunil Gavaskar, is India’s decision to go on a break to Europe after the ODI series.
Former India chief selector Sandeep Patil slams Kohli and company for ignoring former players’ advice. “Gavaskar asked why the Indian team members chose to travel around Europe when practice games were arranged before the Test series. Is BCCI going to ask for a clarification now?” he asks.
Having lost nine Tests while winning only one in English conditions since 2011, Team India is under pressure as they have done nothing to suggest that they can leave behind the record of non-performance against the red ball in England in the last seven years.