‘Have Worry, Call Ravi’. It’s a mantra the BCCI have adopted before. Ravi Shastri has eternally been the Indian board’s crisis-man. The one they go to whenever Indian cricket finds itself in a bit of a pickle. Having been clinically decimated during the 3-1 drubbing in the Test series against England, Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co have come under incessant flak over the last couple of days. And like they’ve done before on numerous occasions over the last few years, the BCCI’s response was to make an SOS call to Shastri in a bid to rein in the crisis.
Shastri’s previous fire-fighting assignments have included being put in the panel suggested by the BCCI to the Supreme Court to probe into the IPL corruption scandal. He was part of the six-member committee to select the coach after Greg Chappell had resigned, and was on the panel that agreed to sign Gary Kirsten six years ago.
He’s also been a member of the IPL governing council in the past in addition to being the media representative in the ICC’s cricket commmitee. Shastri had also held the post of the chairman of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) back in 2007.
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That same year, the ex-India opener had also been appointed as manager of the Indian team on a tour to Bangladesh following the diabolical first round exit in the Caribbean-held World Cup.
And his appointment as ‘Director of Cricket’ for the upcoming limited-overs leg of the England tour in a way is a deja vu to the role he held for those few weeks in Bangladesh seven years ago. Back then, too, Shastri had been handed complete control of the team as India looked to win back lost pride. Unlike then, though, his appointment comes at a time when coach Duncan Fletcher still remains in-charge, raising questions about his role in the setup.
In Shastri, Dhoni & Co will get someone who’s a straight-shooter, one who doesn’t believe in mincing words and calls it as he sees it. At the same time, he also possesses an aura of being ‘one of the boys’ that should go down well with what remains a young team.
Shastri’s crisis-management abilities have been utilised in the past by other teams as well. In 2003, South Africa had hired him for conducting a one-day session on handling the media as they prepared to tour England under young captain Graeme Smith. As a cricketer, Shastri was known for his combative skills and as someone who routinely punched above his weight. The man who started his career as a left-arm spinner and batted at No.10 before transforming into a dogged, determined opener with a typically fighting 206 at Sydney to show for it.
Having said that, most Shastri appointments under the BCCI’s aegis have looked like attempts to paper the cracks with a coat of cosmetic whitewash. He came in for great criticism when he (along with Sunil Gavaskar) was silent on air and in his columns when the IPL scandal broke out last year. He has also been criticised repeatedly for never having been critical of the BCCI even when it has seemed completely warranted.
It will be interesting to see how the dynamics of the Indian team change with Shastri at the helm, especially with regards to the free rein that skipper Dhoni has enjoyed so far. Back in 2011, the hangover of the Test disaster had led them to stagger in the ODIs, failing to win a single match. Of all the SOS calls that he has answered, this might well be the most crucial for Shastri.
Finger in every pie
Shastri was named in the panel suggested by the BCCI to the Supreme Court to probe into the IPL corruption.
Took up the post of the chairman of the National Cricket Academy.
Appointed team manager for tour of Bangladesh after India’s early exit from the 2007 World Cup.
Part of the six-member committee to
select the coach after Greg Chappell’s tenure ended.
Has been in ICC’s cricket committee as a media representative.
Was part of the IPL Governing Council.