Indian team director Ravi Shastri has quashed reports of unrest in the dressing room over captaincy issues and said Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have “tremendous” mutual respect between them.
“What people don’t realise is that there is tremendous mutual respect there between Virat Kohli and M.S. Dhoni,” Shastri was quoted as saying by bcci.tv on Monday.
“When M.S. was at his prime as India’s Test captain, Virat was only a youngster. There were times when Virat’s place wasn’t certain in the side and MS stuck by him. Such things are not forgotten. I can sense and see that respect without anyone having to tell me.”
The reports of conflict within the Indian camp were sparked following the team’s first-ever One-Day-International (ODI) series loss to minnows Bangladesh as Test skipper Kohli expressed concern over the team’s decision-making.
“Not too happy with the way we have played. We have been sort of doubtful in our decision-making and that shows on the field,” Kohli earlier said, fuelling speculations of a rift within the team.
His comments followed team-mates Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin’s vocal support for ODI skipper Dhoni, whose personal coach has claimed “groupism” within the team as the reason for India’s loss.
Asked about the biggest change Shastri as a director brought into the dressing room, the 53-year-old said: ”Honesty and openness. I told the boys, ‘Whatever you want to say, say it in the dressing room, not behind anyone’s back’.”
“A conscious effort was made to bring this honest environment about. I cannot say if I did it or not but I have seen massive improvement. The players have opened up much more from when I joined the team. There is trust there and there are benefits there. I told the guys, ‘Whatever is on your mind, rather than keeping it all bottled up, get it out’.”
“There is also mutual trust among the group. They want to play for each other and genuinely enjoy each other’s success. That is the healthiest quality a team can have.”
Shastri’s involvement with the team has been lauded by a lot of players and he is said to have brought in a lot of positivity into the outfit.
“It’s basically about making them believe in their own abilities and that as a unit they are one of the best in the world. When it’s constantly mentioned and when you have results to prove it, it becomes infectious and is transferred from one player to another,” said Shastri, who played 80 Tests and 150 ODIs for India, scoring 3,830 and 3,108 runs respectively.
“In the eight months that I have been with the team, we have won about 75 to 80 per cent of the ODIs,” Shastri, who has 151 Test and 129 ODI wickets to his credit, added.
The former Mumbai star is confident that the team will bounce back after the 1-2 series loss to neighbours Bangladesh.
“Yes, we had a bad loss against Bangladesh but you learn from that and bounce back. This team has been through some tough terrain, in England and Australia, and they would have learned a hell of a lot from those tours,” he said.