In his U19 days, Ravi Shastri was once caught with a bottle of beer in his hand, a story confirmed by the man himself. One of the team managers took the issue seriously and wanted him out of the side, but Shastri remained adamant that he did nothing wrong and wanted his bottle back. “Pull me up if this impacts my performance, but don’t judge me for the bottle in my hand,” he said.
Somewhere down the line, lost in the chaos of memes and pictures captured at the wrong time, Ravi Shastri is one figure in Indian cricket who has been misunderstood to a great level. Age-long stereotypes have a lot to do with this, alcohol consumption degrades a human according to many and unfortunately, this wrong presumption resonates with a major chunk of the cricket watching audience, especially in India.
The drastic growth of social media in the last four years has played it’s part as well. Everyone’s opinion is easily accessible and irrelevant of those opinions being dogmatic, derogatory or completely illogical, they get consumed by a huge audience and people tend to continue building assumptions along the same line.
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Starting with one comment by a person, the opinion keeps spreading like wildfire if it’s something negative and ends up making thousands believe it’s true. Sadly, that’s how social media has been influencing opinions of people over the years unfortunately and what makes it even worse is the fact that people take undue advantage of this loophole in social networking systems. Once you’re accused of something online, it’s almost impossible to recapture the lost reputation.
Ravi Shastri is (and was) many things – Some which concern the Indian cricket-watching audience, some which absolutely don’t. A great cricketer during his days; who can forget his heroics in the Benson and Hedges trophy in 1985? “Champion of champions,” they called him, and he went on to produce many more amazing performances with bat and ball.
Three different generations relate with him in different ways. The author’s father fondly remembers the 1985 exploits from him and the time he took on Shane Warne in Sydney. The author himself grew up listening to his voice in the background as Sachin “went after that one” off Shoaib Akhtar, Yuvraj’s night in Durban when Stuart Broad was a victim of Flintoff’s sledging, Sreesanth’s catch to dismiss Misbah and of course, when “Dhoni finished it in style”.
When heydays came to an end
The current generation, the ones who started watching cricket post 2013, saw him more often sitting in the dressing room as the Indian team director or head coach. While he most certainly scored good marks in the first two assignments, his coaching role hasn’t impressed many. As difficult it is for a rational man to judge the impact of a coach in cricket, without knowing what precisely he does with the team, many do think he’s not good enough for the role.
It does appear on the outside that he’s been a naysayer to Indian captain Virat Kohli. Both the captain and coach’s personalities are a bit too similar, they’re both ferocious and thrive when they’re in power, but some experts say it’s too much fire at the helm to maintain normalcy underneath. They might make sense at a certain level, yet it’s immoral to connect his personal fun life with the professional one.
Ravi Shastri, to a great extent, has himself to blame. He can lose track of his words on occasions, for example, the time when he said “Goti muh mein aagaya” live after a match, just provided ignition to the nonsensical arguments and jibes at his personal life.
But talking sheerly in cricketing terms, the talent he had under his supervision, not many Indian coaches had that luxury. A Test series win in Australia is the only crowning jewel in his coaching career, alongside a famous limited overs performance in South Africa. However, this team was capable of hitting better heights and they didn’t, even after getting ample time for Shastri to settle into the mix.
Perhaps, Shastri is less defensible for those who wish to prove his prowess as a coach.
Play hard, party harder!
That in a nutshell, is Ravi Shastri. It’s no rocket science to understand why people aren’t on the same page with him. However, he definitely has the right attitude to deal with people who can’t accept him for who he is. As belligerent, passionate and vocal he appears to be, he can be astoundingly ignorant towards those who don’t resonate with his opinions. That could be bad in some ways, but mostly, that’s a great quality to possess.
Ravi Shastri, over the years, has been a source of some great, joyous moments for Indian cricket. As a cricketer and commentator, he produced moments which indelibly will remain a special part in our history. People take great pleasure in making assumptions about the person he is by bringing up one factor repeatedly, but those will remain irrelevant as long as rationality exists.
Legendary commentator Peter Drury, often regarded as the football poet, said in an interview once that no one tunes in for the commentator, they do so to watch the game. He also believes that the role of a commentator is eavesdropping, helping people in the television understand the proceedings better.
Well, I don’t know about many commentators, but cricket has witnessed some iconic names behind the mic like Richie Benaud, Tony Greig, Mark Nicholas, David Lloyd, Bill Lawry and others who made us tune in to television coverage of the sport for their voice. Without exaggeration, Ravi Shastri falls in that exclusive club of commentators who made cricket-watching experience even more enjoyable than it was.
It goes without saying, cricket definitely misses his presence in the com-box and the fraternity would be glad to listen to him describing the game once again in the future.
Ravishankar Jayadritha Shastri, one of Indian cricket’s most prolific figures, was born this day (May 27th), 1962.