Winning a world title ‘is a bloody obsession’ for Ravi Shastri

India head coach Ravi Shastri has said that winning a world title has become a “huge” obsession of his, something he wants to “chase” with his team.

Under Shastri, India have competed in three global tournaments: the 2015 World Cup, the 2016 World T20 and the World Cup earlier this summer in England. All three times, India failed to go past the semi-finals. Before Shastri’s tenure ends, India have two more chances to secure his maiden world title as coach: the upcoming T20 World Cups, first in October 2021 in Australia, and then at home in 2021.

“Huge [obsession],” Shastri told India Today in an interview. “I am a winner, man. I have been part of a World Cup team that won in 1983. I have been part of a World Championship team that won in 1985. I’m a coach of the Indian team which has been the No. 1 Test team in the last three years. I like to win. So, yes, would you say that [I am after] one event [ICC title]; I’ll chase that, with my team.”

Shastri’s comments are in contrast with India captain Virat Kohli, who recently spoke in measured terms of not focusing “on things which are only based on results” but “enjoying the process” instead. The obsession, Kohli said, came from the “public”.

“You could say winning an ICC tournament is like an obsession or like a wish that people have, which is a beautiful thing to wish,” Kohli had said. “We [the players] obviously have the desire to win big tournaments and big series and we want to give our best effort possible. But, if you focus on things which are only based on success and numbers and results, you don’t enjoy the process. We play well as a team because we enjoy the process.”

Shastri said he had no doubts that under Kohli’s captaincy India would end up ranked alongside the greatest teams ever, but the absence of an ICC trophy was still hurting. “It is an obsession for me. I am going to chase it, with my team. This team will go down in the history of Indian cricket, in world cricket, as one of the best teams of the century.

“Okay. I’m telling you now. But we are going to chase that [ICC title], and that will be cherry on top of the cake. We are chasing it. My team, me, my management, we are chasing it. So, if you say it’s an obsession, it is a bloody obsession. Get that right.”

India’s last world title was the 2013 Champions Trophy that MS Dhoni‘s team won beating hosts England. Since then Shastri has had two stints in the coaching role: first through 2014-16 and then he took over again after the 2017 Champions Trophy where India finished runners-up to Pakistan.

With India now shifting their focus to the T20 format for the next two years ahead of those two World Cups, Shastri predicted that within the “next 12 months” India would take their place “in the top two if not [No.] 1” position in the T20 format.

The Dhoni question: “I don’t rule anything out” – Shastri

It was under Dhoni that India won their last and only T20 world title – in 2007, the inaugural edition of the tournament. More than a decade later, two years short of 40, Dhoni remains a talking point. After being run out by a direct hit by Martin Guptill in the World Cup semi-final in July, Dhoni has not played any competitive cricket.

Shastri said that he had seen a photograph recently of Dhoni “pulling out a bat”, which was a positive sign that he was resuming training, which Shastri said was essential first step towards making a comeback. “The way I look at it is he will start training because you can’t leave the game. If you want to play the game, you can’t leave it for that long, it will catch up.

“I think he will play the IPL and take it from there. If he has an outstanding IPL… I don’t rule anything out, with that kind of experience, with that kind of the knowledge of the sport. He would know – the amount of sport he has played, if he puts himself in contention, he feels after the IPL, ‘I’m good enough to play for India’, don’t mess with that.”

According to Shastri, he could understand Dhoni taking an extended break and possibly turning his focus on the T20 format. “To be honest, it [Dhoni’s decision] is sensible. And I like that he’s starting to play again. See, because I don’t think he is too keen on the one-day stuff anymore. He is finished with Test cricket; T20 is an option. It’s a format that’s tailor-made for him, but will his body be able to cope with the demands only he will know.

“If he decides to play, which he will because he will play the IPL then he will start with a very fresh mind and very clear ideas. Then you’ve got to see form. If he has a great IPL and puts himself into contention that ‘I’m available for selection’, then you don’t fool around.”

Shastri had earlier said he could not understand why people were “in a hurry to see him off“, and underlined that Dhoni could be considered for the 2020 T20 World Cup in case he did do well in the upcoming IPL.

While the outgoing India selection committee head MSK Prasad had said more than once his panel has “moved on” from Dhoni, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly asserted the decision of when to retire was Dhoni’s to take. Dhoni himself had subsequently left fans – and journalists – on the edge, asking them to wait till January.