Indian coach Ravi Shastri opened up about his team's 15-member squad for the ICC World Cup 2019 and said that he would have ideally wanted the squad strength to be 16, while also telling those who missed out not to lose heart.
Shastri was in Dubai on Wednesday, April 17, as Corporate Ambassador of Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone when he spoke about the squad that he will take to England in a bid to win a third 50-over ICC World Cup. Here, Shastri refused to make any statement regarding the criteria of selection when asked about the exclusion of Ambati Rayudu and Rishabh Pant.
The coach also said that he does not get involved in the selection procedure. "I don't get involved in selection. If we have any opinion, we let the captain known," Shastri said quoted as saying by Sport360. He also added that he would have liked the squad strength to be 16 as some players are bound to miss out when the strength of the squad is 15.
"When you only have 15 to pick, there is bound to be someone or the other who misses out, which is very unfortunate. I would have preferred 16 players. We had mentioned to the ICC that in a tournament that long, 16 players makes sense. But the diktat was 15," said Shastri.
The coach who oversaw India's first ever Test series triumph in Australia also asked the players who were not picked to not lose heart. He said that injuries can happen anytime in sport and thus some players still have a chance. "They (who missed out) shouldn't lose heart. It's a funny game. There could be injuries. So you never know when you could be called up," Shastri added.
Shastri, who was a member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad, also shared his thoughts on which team heads into the tournament as favourites and his choice was England. He felt that apart from having a thorough knowledge of home conditions, the English team has multi-dimensional players who are adept with both, bat and ball. In the same breath, he also mentioned that any team can win the World Cup.
"England have been the most consistent team over the last two years. They have multi-dimensional players. They have depth in bowling and batting. And they are playing at home. So they would start as favourites," Shastri opined. "But there are so many teams that can beat any team on a given day. In a tournament like the World Cup, you have got to be on top of your game every game."
One such multi-dimensional player -- according to the chairman of selectors MSK Prasad -- India possesses is Vijay Shankar and Shastri was asked about his batting position which is the number 4 slot. "Total flexibility (on No4 position) depending on conditions, opposition. I would say the top three... but after that you can be very flexible," he said.
Shastri also provided justification on why India is not over-reliant on skipper Virat Kohli. "If you look at the last five years, the way the Indian team has performed, they have always been in the top two or three. To be in top two or three for five years in a row, No1 in Tests, again top three in T20 cricket... you can't depend on one player. You have that kind of consistent record, you need a bunch of players performing all the time. Due credit to the team," Shastri concluded.