5:21 pm - Tuesday July 19, 2957

Ravi Shastri slashes hard at reports of rift between MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli

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RAVI Shastri doesn’t deny rumours, he quashes them. And he does so in characterstically bombastic fashion. At a time conspiracy theories abound regarding the allegedly strained relationship between MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, the man at the helm of the team’s affairs has dismissed them with disdain.

“It’s (rift between Dhoni and Kohli) the biggest load of bull**** I have been hearing. It’s one honest bunch who believes in playing for each other. That’s why the results you have had over the last year, 70 per cent of matches won,” Shastri, the Indian team director told PTI.

In another interview to bcci.tv, the former India captain also recalled the time Dhoni had backed Kohli during the nascent stages of his career, leading to ‘tremendous mutual respect’ between the ODI and Test skippers.

“When MS 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,” he said.

Shastri was originally appointed team director for the ODI leg of the England tour in August 2014 after India had gone down 3-1 in the Tests. He was subsequently given an extension in the role till the end of the World Cup. The outspoken cricketer-turned-commentator, however, has been in-charge of affairs with the BCCI yet to decide on a replacement for coach Duncan Fletcher. And he was part of the team management when Dhoni announced his retirement from Tests without any prior notice following the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne at the turn of the year, making way for Kohli to take over the reins in the longer format of the game.

“Dhoni is an all-time legend. He is the kind of bloke who plays on his own terms. It’s best exemplified in the manner he quit Test cricket. I would have known many who would have loved to go for a 100-Test milestone,” he said. According to Shastri, at 26, Kohli was still learning with the job. “Kohli is young, flamboyant, in-your-face character. He will learn with the exposure he gets. He is only 26, let him settle into captaincy for a year or two,”
While Dhoni and Kohli have been rested from the short tour to Zimbabwe, Shastri too will be giving the African sojourn a miss owing to prior committments. The young squad will be led by Ajinkya Rahane. And Shastri, who will be in England as an analyst for the Ashes, also sees a bright future for the Indian team.
“They do carry a huge promise.
All are young, in the 26- 28 age bracket. Their best is still ahead. It’s not just the figures but their style of cricket that has heartened me. They didn’t take a step back; they were in face of opposition and that warmed everyone’s heart including Australians. Kohli was magnificent. We lost two Tests in Australia and in both of them we aimed wins. 400 runs in each of the four Tests,” said Shastri.

MEANWHILE, Rahane, who will become the first Mumbai cricketer to lead the country after a 15-year gap, is looking forward to the challenge, which he admits to be an unexpected one. The right-handed middle-order batsman speaks about having learnt a lot from each captain he’s played under. “I want to take Dhoni’s calmness in terms of the way he handles situations, Virat’s controlled aggression both as batsman and captain and Rahul Dravid’s mantra of keeping things simple on the field as I take over my new responsibility. Each captain though has his own style, and I have my own ideas too,” Rahane told bcci.tv. The 27-year-old might have limited experience of captaining sides at the domestic level but he reveals to have always been keen in putting himself into the skipper’s shoes in every game he plays at the international level.
“Whatever games I have played for Rajasthan Royals and also for India, whether I was in the XI or not, I have always thought about how I would handle different situations. Like, what kind of field I would have set, and what would my thinking process have been. That’s one way of enhancing your cricket knowledge,” he said. The tour will also see the return of Harbhajan Singh to the ODI arena, and Rahane believed that he would be picking the brains of the veteran off-spinner as well as the other senior members of the squad that include Robin Uthappa and Murali Vijay

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