Mumbai: Former India cricket team chief coach Ravi Shastri has said that the new England men’s team managing director Rob Key has his task cut out as he begins the rebuilding process of the Test side after the heavy bruising suffered during the Ashes and the series in the Caribbean.
Quite like Shastri, who made the switch from being a commentator to guiding India to become the most successful Test side in the world, Key too is making a similar transition, and the 59-year-old India legend said that the most important thing is to set the tone “from the outset”.
Key was appointed the England men’s cricket managing director on April 17 and has been tasked with overseeing the transition of the team. His first big task would be to appoint the new Test captain after Joe Root stepped down recently.
“Rob may have more work with the domestic game but, when it comes to the national team, it is very similar,” Shastri told The Guardian. “The most important thing is getting among the players and setting a tone from the outset: what you believe in, what you think of them and changing the mindset to compete and win. You have to be bullish and brutish in wanting to achieve that. For us, and now England, it was about setting the challenge of winning abroad, big time.”
Under Shastri, India twice defeated Australia away from home, thrashed Sri Lanka and West Indies, and currently lead the incomplete series against England 2-1 — the final Test will be played in July this year.
On Key’s move from his long stint in the commentary box to rebuilding the England Test side, Shastri said, “You leave everything you said as a commentator behind. Park it. When I was the director of the (India) team (2014-2016), it was about diagnosing problems: I was asked to hire and fire, whoever I wanted I could get in and whoever I didn’t could be shown the door. And it was also outlining how we want to play: to be aggressive and ruthless, to up the fitness levels, to get a group of fast bowlers to take 20 wickets overseas.”
England are passing through a terrible phase in Test cricket, having lost 17 overseas Tests (and five Test series) since 2017 — an unwanted record they hold alongside Bangladesh. Key faces a big task in getting the team back on track, and Shastri said it was crucial to instil a fighting mindset in the side.
“Tell your players to embrace the culture of a country, mix with its people, understand who they are, then give them everything, so they know a force is coming for them. Give it right back and get some runs. Stand up, have the stomach for a fight and, when you get the ball, give it right back, no compromise. It’s all about results but the goodwill if you succeed? Well, you don’t get that as a player or a commentator.”
Shastri backed Ben Stokes to turn the England Test team’s fortunes around. “The adrenaline of captaincy — not that he needs it — could fire Stokes up to be something even more than the incredible player he is now. The important relationship is with the captain — the moment there is friction, things go downhill. But they will be fine because the England I saw last year, they have enough talent and skill to compete. There’s no doubt about that in my mind. It’s all about their mindset.”