Ravi Shastri has announced that he will be leaving the Indian cricket team’s head coach post after the World cup T20 in UAE.
At this juncture, I wanted to reflect on what Ravi Shastri meant to Indian cricket since he made his debut. Ravi Shastri was never India’s best batsman or best bowler, or best fielder over a period.
However, what made him tick and what made him last for close to 40 years playing multiple roles in Indian Cricket?
Below are some of my thoughts:
The tough nut batsman
Ravi Shastri started in the Indian team as a lower-order batsman and later became an opener. His transition to the top of the order was partly due to his improving his batting ability and partly due to his teammates running away from the opener’s job.
The latter was particularly true during the away series. Ravi’s first Test century came as an opener against Pakistan in Pakistan facing Imran Khan. Ravi went on to make centuries in challenging conditions in West Indies, Australia, England and Pakistan. He scored tough runs against tough oppositions, no stat padding against minnows.
The able leader
Many reckon that Ravi Shastri is the best captain that India did not have. Ravi captained the Indian Test team for just one match, a memorable win against the West Indies in Madras. However, Ravi’s leadership came to the fore much after his playing days.
The horrors of Greg Chappell’s tenure and the embarrassing early exit from the 2007 World Cup left the Indian team down in morale.
India wanted someone to step up and pull the team out of the morass. Ravi Shastri accepted the post of team director and brought the team together. Even though his stint was short, he helped the Indian team get back on its feet.
Ravi Shastri’s more significant contribution as the coach came much later. Ravi’s combination with Virat Kohli saw the development of India’s long-term vision as an all-around Test team. It is not a coincidence that India has developed a strong squad of players who travel well and win abroad in this period.
The one who kept up with times
Indian teams of the past were not known for being great fielders, particularly out fielding. Ravi Shastri was one of the first Indian players to learn to slide while fielding.
To top it, he also had a solid arm to rocket the throw from the deep. Those were the days when most Indian outfielders would relay throw to the keeper while fielding in Australia.
Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar were two of the first sets of Indian players who successfully moved into television commentary.
Ravi distinguished himself as a shrewd observer of the game and gave us some trademark phrases as well. Tracer bullet, the atmosphere is electric, and such memorable phrases served as Ravi’s identity behind the microphone. Apart from being a commentator, he stood out as a staunch supporter of Indian cricket wherever he went.
Over the past 40 years since his debut in 1981, Ravi has enjoyed a roller-coaster relationship with Indian fans. One cannot forget the brickbats he received for slow batting in some of the matches. However, none of those can deny the yeomen service that Ravi Shastri has provided to Indian Cricket.
Sanjay Manjrekar, in his book, Imperfect, has spoken glowingly at multiple places about Ravi’s outstanding contribution to Bombay cricket and Indian cricket. According to Sanjay, Ravi provided advice and help to anyone who approached him regarding cricket.
If I summed up Ravi Shastri’s contribution to Indian cricket, I would say that Ravi was the man for all seasons for Indian cricket.