Rohit Sharma would've liked "20-25 days to prepare" for the World Test Championship (WTC) final, but Ravi Shastri, the former India coach, was more pragmatic about the ground reality, putting the onus on the players instead, saying make a "choice" between missing parts of the IPL and preparing for a game of this magnitude.
"See, that's never going to happen," Shastri told Star Sports in response to Rohit's statement. The Indian captain had suggested how "ideal preparation", like in 2021 when they toured England nearly three weeks prior to the start of the Test series, worked in their favour with India going on to take a 2-1 lead before Covid-19 forced the postponement of the final Test.
That preparation window only opened up because the second half of the IPL had to be pushed back to September due to a surge in Covid cases among teams and players.
"Let's be realistic here. You're not going to get those 20 days. And if that's the case then you've got to miss IPL," Shastri said. "So, the choice is yours and it's up to the establishment as well. I'm sure the BCCI will review this in the future, if a World Test Championship [final] is going to come after an IPL every time in the month of June, then for that season, if your team qualifies for the final, there should be certain clauses put to franchises."
Soon after India's 209-run loss to Australia in the WTC final, head coach Rahul Dravid too touched upon having to work with limitations around the scheduling. "I am never going to be happy with the prep as a coach, but that's a reality I'm faced with…we are faced with," Dravid said.
"Schedules are so cramped and tight. When you've been playing international cricket, if you're here three weeks before the tour and play two side games, you're going to be better prepared. We don't have that, we have to do what we can, but no excuses, no complaints."
India's fast bowlers - especially the change bowlers - missed their lines in the first innings against Australia. Rohit suggested having more time before the match might have helped them get into the rhythm of bowling in Test match cricket after two months of non-stop T20 cricket.
"Yeah, ideally, we would want to have a good time in hand to prepare, give enough rest to the bowlers," Rohit said at the post-match press conference. "Sometimes, it can be tough because playing T20 cricket, you completely bowl different lengths, different lines, and a lot of change-ups.
"And then Test cricket, obviously, requires a lot of discipline, hitting that area consistently and challenging the batsmen - but again, you know [Mohammed] Shami, [Mohammed] Siraj, Umesh [Yadav] they all are experienced, they obviously know how to prepare themselves and get ready for a game like this. But in an ideal scenario, yes, I would prefer it if we have 20-25 days to prepare for a game like this."
Shastri calls for India to start succession planning
India begin 2023-25 cycle of the WTC with a Test series in the West Indies in July. Among the issues India may need to address is workload management, considering the 50-over World Cup is scheduled for October-November at home. This could potentially mean a few key players being rested.
Shastri believes it's imperative for the team management and the selectors to chart a succession plan to ensure young players coming through get a feel for the game at the highest level before they are called up for something like a final. This, he felt, had to be done, even if it meant "taking hard calls people may not like."
"That's what the think-tank and the selectors will have to sit and see, draw a plan, have the vision to see how you replenish your squad," he said. "Australians are very good at doing that over the years. They see where they want to be in three years' time. They don't wait for suddenly five players to go away from the side.
"They're constantly getting in youth. So there's a combination of youth and experience all the time. The youngsters learn quickly from the senior players. So your team is healthy and strong right through. So that planning has to be done. They're hard calls, people might not like it, but it's the team's interest that is paramount and that's how you should look at it."
This planning is something Rohit also spoke about. "Any tournament you play, you start looking at what possibly you can do moving ahead," he said on Sunday. "Honestly, the game just got over. We haven't really given too much thought to what we want to do in the future. Obviously, there will be some talks around it and we'll see whatever is required and whatever is best, whatever the brand of cricket we want to play in the next two years.
"And who are the guys who can do that role for us? That is the question that we need to find answers to. And there are a lot of guys, there are a lot of players who are doing really well in our domestic cricket as well. It's just about finding them and giving them that space, enough time to go forward and do the job for us. It's all about that. The focus will be obviously on that."