Shastri has been an highly influential figure in cricket since his time playing for India, first as team manager and now as head coach, but insists that his role now is to only take the “burden” off Kohli, while the captain goes about leading the side in all three formats.
What do you make of Virat Kohli's on-field aggression?
Madan Lal, for one, loves it ?https://t.co/QELmQVDBEt
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) March 18, 2020
“The captain is the boss, I always believe that,” Shastri said on the Sky Cricket Podcast on Friday. “The job of the coaching staff, as far as I’m concerned, is to prepare the guys in the best possible way to be able to go out there and play brave, positive, fearless cricket.”
Under Kohli, the team has won 33 out of 55 Tests: the highest win-percentage for any Indian captain with more than one Test at the helm. The Kohli-Shastri pairing, which came into effect when Shastri took up the head coach’s role in 2017, has seen India extend their domination at the top of the ICC Test rankings.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) August 18, 2019
“The captain leads from the front. Yes, we are there to take off the burden but you leave him to do his job in the middle. The captain sets the tone and is encouraged to set the tone. In the middle, he controls the show.”
Under Kohli’s guidance, player fitness has been handed massive importance; Shastri believes it stems from Kohli own will to drive himself to peak fitness, a mantra that has rubbed onto his teammates.
“When you talk about fitness, the leadership came from the top and that is Virat. He is not a guy to mess around … He woke up one morning and said ‘if I want to play this game I want to be the fittest player in the world and compete against the best in all conditions’ and he let his body go through one hell of a lot.
“When he sets those standards, it rubs off on others,” Shastri added. “Test cricket for us is the biggest form. It’s the benchmark. We want to set standards.”