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Opinion

Ravi Shastri: The man of many faces

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Roar Rookie
23rd June, 2021
15

Ravi Shastri. The coach of Team India has had a very interesting career as a player, administrator and commentator.

Not exactly the most gifted, he personified the Mumbai ‘Khadoos’ spirit and laid it all out on the cricket field. He wore his patriotism on his sleeve and one word to describe him would be unpretentious.

Shastri played by his own rules and though his rules were not ever a tangent to cricket’s rules as he was never the bad boy, he still wasn’t a mamma’s boy or the boy next door while not shying from his off-field plaudits. The best thing was Shastri played as hard as they get.

Shastri was always a leader but also the curious case of Ravi Shastri would throw up two different aspects of his career which was a paradox or tale of two parallel halves.

On one hand, he was the anchorman who would hold one end up while playing the staple chapati flick shot and on the other hand, he could switch gears especially once he had passed certain milestone and would go berserk. One would have to wonder why we didn’t get to see that Shastri who could bat in the fifth gear often but one careful look and you would realise the answers lie in the needs of the team.

Ravi Shastri (right) and Virat Kohli.

Ravi Shastri (right) and Virat Kohli are Team India’s brains trust. (Matt King/Cricket Australia/Getty Images

To be analogous, he was the man who would be like a bottle, pun intended knowing jokes and memes on him for the very reason – he would bottle one end up and dry the runs and tire the opposition bowlers or he would be the bubbly exuberant while in his onslaught mood.

Shastri has taken those jokes and memes in his stride and people have stooped low to deliver blows which are incomprehensible for a man of his stature and position.

Shastri, by contrast was one who has the record of batting all five days of a Test and same Ravi is one of the privileged few who had creamed a bowler for six sixes in an over.

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It is the same Shastri who had batted so slow in a Test match in home ground Mumbai that he was booed had accelerated at will once completing his hundred in the same innings. Seldom you would find a batter who bats for all five days ends up scoring then the fastest double hundred in 113 balls in first class cricket.

Shastri had been a cricketer who wasn’t Sachin or Sunny coming out of Mumbai stables and didn’t have the media lining up to eat out of his hands.

He was a rather studious boy who was summoned to New Zealand and started his career batting at number 10 (he was a left arm spinner first) and literally moved up to number 1 over the years. He had a decent start as a bowler and had finished as the highest wicket taker in his debut series.

This batting promotion wasn’t a gift that was bestowed on him. He climbed his way up and made himself strong enough to put him out there in front of fearsome foursome of the west indies or the firepower of Imran Khan and his army. Needless to say, he returned with flying colours.

Generic cricket ball

(Steven Paston – EMPICS/Getty Images)

This isn’t about Shastri’s achievements as a batter and I didn’t wake up almost 30 years too late to write this. This is about giving respect and dues to the coach to the man who instilled the habit of winning in team India and helping them reach the pinnacle of Test cricket that they are vying for the crown.

The reason I write today is because today was the penultimate day of this Test championship finals and whatever happens tomorrow, the man needs to get his due. No other Indian coach has helped the team succeed as he has.

Ravi has always been the leader of men and one wonders why he had a near similar fate as the man who debuted in the same game where Ravi had his only double hundred in Test cricket in Sydney while guiding little master Sachin and spinner, I am talking about is Shane Warne.

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Cricket pundits across the world would say Ravi and Shane were two of the smartest cricketing brains and it was cricket’s injustice that they didn’t get to participate wearing team blazers while throwing ceremonial coin in the air.

Ravi on his part at least had the fortune of leading his team in solitary Test where he had the fortune of unearthing Hirwani magic on Viv Richard’s team and winning the game with Hirwani having the best figures of a debutant, period.

Ravi had a great career as a Mumbai cricket captain and he has always stood up for his younger mates. Unfortunate death of Mark Mascarenhas and Ravi took Sachin under his wings and ensured Tendulkar was taken care of and didn’t feel the loss of the man who had elevated Sachin to the higher pedestal.

Ravi had a very strong and articulated career in the glass box upon retirement and has been the voice that called many achievements of his fellow cricketers, the most famous call being the one he made in his home city on April second, 2011 to officially announce India’s World Cup win.

This gives him a unique double of being there as a player for the first one in 1983 and the second one as the commentator signaling the win.

Ravi Shastri walked away with a beautiful Audi car and the title of the Champion of the Champions for his exploits in the Benson and Hedges World Series in 1985 and was the toast of the cricketing world. He truly excelled and anchored Sunny Gavaskar’s team to stay unbeaten and win the tournament while beating the arch rivals Pakistan.

Shastri finished the finals staying unbeaten and cut to the very next tournament and the team was pitted against the archrivals again in Sharjah and Ravi got out to the first ball of the Rothmans cup as if to say I like Bandamp;H better in the battle of cigarettes.

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Despite all this, his biggest achievement stays as the coach who rallied his troops and with the help of Rahane, helped India qualify for the world championship while downing the mighty Aussies in their own backyard.

I write this not because I am his biggest fan, instead myself and number of others haven’t paid dues to the man who silently inspired and motivated his motley crew to stand up to the challenge and did that while being an Indian coach.

At the highest level, mental strength isn’t always the strongest of the traits associated with Indian sportsmen but Shastri has embodied that and proved that you don’t need to have utmost gifted talent, you can overachieve and that is what he has done.

Just for him, I wish that team brings him the championship but as I said, I didn’t want my decision to doff hat to the man change because of an outcome.

Keep up the good work and teach the boys the “khadoos” mentality that Mumbai cricket and the lion crest has. You have brought them this far, please take them farther.

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