Ravi Shastri
Indian cricket team head coach Ravi Shastri Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Ravi Shastri, the India head coach, feels that selection of the Indian squad for the oncoming ICC Cricket World Cup must have been the toughest one for the selectors.

After being named as Corporate Ambassador of the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) in a function at Hotel Oberoi, Shastri told Gulf News: “It must have been a tough one for the selectors. I don’t get involved in selection. If we have any opinions to be given we let the captain know and then after we had a chat among the support staff, he reciprocates that to the selection committee.”

When Gulf News sought his view on observations from many that Team India is heavily dependent on skipper Virat Kohli, Shastri added: “If you look at the last five years and the way the India team has performed, they have always been in the top two or three (in ranking). To be in the top two or three for five years in a row, to be the No. 1 in Test match cricket and to be among the top three in T20 cricket, would not have been possible depending on only one player. To have that kind of consistent record you need a bunch of players performing all the time and due credit to the team, they had.”

When you have only 15 to pick then someone is bound to miss out. This is very unfortunate. I would have preferred 16 players.

- Ravi Shastri

Shastri then explained the near miss for Rishabh Pant and Ambati Rayudu. “When you have only 15 to pick then someone is bound to miss out,” he said. “This is very unfortunate. I would have preferred 16 players. In fact, we had also mentioned to the ICC that in a tournament that is long [having] 16 players make sense. I guess the diktat was for 15 and so we could not pick.”

Shastri was addressing the media for the first time since India’s World Cup team was announced, and hence had to answer a barrage of questions on the team selection. When a journalist asked why wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik was given preference over Pant because of his experience but Vijay Shankar was preferred for No. 4 slot over experienced Rayudu, Shastri said: “My name is Ravi Shastri, head coach of the Indian team. M.S.K. Prasad is the Indian team chief selector and you should ask him this question.”

Shastri also strongly responded to a query on whether the disappointing performances of Royal Challengers Bangalore under Kohli’s captaincy in the Indian Premier League will dent the India skipper’s confidence in the World Cup. “Not at all because when you wear that blue jersey, you will be a different man,” he said.

Shastri’s message to those who missed out on selection was: “Keep at it. India is a big country and from 1.2 billion people only 15 players can be selected. I would have preferred 16, but even then, someone or the other would have missed out. When you have a pool of 18 or 19 players, who can make the team, there is bound to be some people who will miss out and it is unfortunate but they should not lose heart. Cricket is a funny game, there could be injuries to players so you never know when you could be called up.”

India's chances

When asked to rate India’s chances and who could be the strong contenders, Shastri said: “You go by the ICC ranking. England has been the most-consistent team over the last two years. They have multidimensional players and they had depth in bowling and batting and they are also playing at home. In the rankings, they are the No. 1 team in the world. So they would start as favourites. There are so many teams that can beat any team on a given day and you have be on top of your game in every game.”

Shastri concluded by answering another Gulf News question on his advice to his players to handle the pressure of World Cup? “I believe that you’ve got to go out there and enjoy yourself,” he said. You should go out there and do the things that you have been doing over the last four, five years and you don’t have to change it just because it is a World Cup. You need not have to change but have to believe in what you have been doing. We have been a very consistent One Day team over the last years and so stick to it.”