Dhaka: Former India captain and cricket manager Ravi Shastri spoke to The Telegraph over an extended breakfast at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon on Monday.
Q India have got off to a terrific start in the World T20. Did you expect such an emphatic beginning?
A (Passionately) I’ve always maintained that Mahendra Singh Dhoni has another World trophy waiting for him... I don’t know whether it will be this World T20 or the World Cup next year, but I stand convinced. India, of course, have a great chance here.
Did India start favourites for you?
Absolutely. They had to, in the subcontinent... A lot of negative things have been written and said, but I had no doubts over where India stood. I would have told you exactly this had you interviewed me before India’s first match.
What gave you so much confidence?
The quality in the team... It will take a special effort to beat India and I say this knowing that somebody like Yuvraj Singh hasn’t hit form. Sooner rather than later, he will.
At this early stage, what’s your line up for the semi-finals?
Sri Lanka and possibly New Zealand from group A; India and, then, either Australia or Pakistan from group B.
Thankfully, Amit Mishra was played against Pakistan, for he’s made such a difference...
Mishra’s worked on his bowling... He’s quicker through the air and has that extra yard of pace... There’s more load in his action and the ball is going through more revolutions... He’s got variations... What I like the most is the way Dhoni has been communicating with his leg-spinner.
Leg-spinners, in particular, need to be nursed by their captains. Your thoughts?
Indeed, leg-spinners are a special breed and I always wanted one in my team... Be it India or Mumbai... Dhoni’s treating Mishra like a Dada, which is nice, for a leg-spinner is only as good as his captain treats him. For me, a leg-spinner is king. Had Mishra played in South Africa and in New Zealand, the Test series’ would have seen a different result.
Are you saying India would have won the Test series both in South Africa and in New Zealand?
You’ve been consistent in backing Dhoni, but why do some make him their favourite whipping boy?
Envy, perhaps... Dhoni’s won everything... The World Cup, the World T20... He’s taken India to No.1 in Test cricket... The seniors have retired or are out of favour, so who else to target? There’s probably jealousy — how can one man achieve so much?
But should Dhoni have moved court (against two media organisations and an IPS officer, who is under suspension) after arriving in Dhaka?
I’m not aware of the details, as I was in Dubai... In any case, it’s a personal thing and Dhoni must have followed the advice of his lawyers. On personal issues, he has every right to act the way he wishes to.
Where do you stand on the call to remove Duncan Fletcher, under whom India have had an especially poor record overseas?
Gary Kirsten was a very good coach, but he was also very lucky as India didn’t tour England or Australia in his time... I can guarantee you that the results would have been no different... How can you blame Fletcher when we didn’t have the bowling to win in England and in Australia... A coach has no role once the players have stepped over the rope... Remove Fletcher by all means, but only if you get Sunil Gavaskar as the batting coach, Kapil Dev as the bowling coach and Sourav Ganguly as the cricket manager.
That’s your dream ‘team’?
Yes, but all three must be available. If they are, remove Fletcher... He could then join me on the commentary team when we tour England this summer!
So, you endorse the Board’s decision to extend Fletcher’s contract?
The Board has done the right thing.
Shouldn’t there be accountability?
But how do you know Fletcher isn’t contributing? He doesn’t have to walk up and down the field giving the impression that he’s doing everything... You don’t need a coach who is all energy, but does **** all otherwise. I was the cricket manager on the 2007 tour of Bangladesh, but I didn’t stretch a muscle. That didn’t mean I had no contribution. Different coaches have different styles. What does Dhoni think of Fletcher? What do the younger players think of him? People who’ve been calling for a change should suggest alternative names.
Also, the World Cup is less than a year away...
That’s there too... This is a team in transition, both in Test cricket and in ODIs... To win overseas, you need good fast bowlers who’re fit. If you don’t have them, you don’t stand a chance. That’s the bottom line.
To talk of fast bowlers, is it over for Zaheer Khan?
Zaheer’s experience is invaluable, but (at 35) he’s not getting younger... If you’re looking to take five fast bowlers to England, then take him as the sixth. Eventually, only those who’re fit and strong should play. Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami pick themselves... Ashok Dinda’s a contender, as are Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron.
Suresh Raina’s made a commendable comeback...
Raina’s a class act and a team man to the core... He takes chances, but he does so for the team. He’s a game changer... In fact, I see a future for him in Test cricket as well. I’m aware much is made of the short-pitched stuff, but he’s getting so much of it, that he’ll improve. It’s not that he’s scared, it’s a technical issue, which can be sorted out.
Aren’t you amazed at the way Virat Kohli is handling pressure and delivering across formats?
Virat’s quickly become one of the best in the world... He’s a phenomenon and is a man for all conditions and for all attacks. What’s so pleasing is that he has the hunger and the desire to be the best. Virat takes guard afresh in every innings, not thinking of what he may have done in the last one... He respects the conditions... An all-round player, he’s the stuff champions are made of. Committed and classy.
Is it the end of the road for Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh?
It’s never the end of the road for anybody.
The last one... What does it take to be successful?
(Smiles) Loads of self-belief, a high degree of skill... But, more than anything else, you have to believe in your abilities.