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Ravi Shastri: ‘The last thing a coach wants is, he says something and player sulks like a cry-baby’

🔴 At the recent e.Adda, former Head Coach of Indian cricket team, Ravi Shastri spoke on the recent Virat Kohli-Sourav Ganguly controversy, similarities between himself and Kohli, and on the tough decisions he had to make as the team’s head coach

By: Express News Service |
Updated: January 7, 2022 9:15:57 am
Ravi Shastri, Anant Goenka, Indian cricket team, Virat Kohli-Sourav Ganguly, Sriram Veera, Hemendra Kothari, Harsh Goenka, Sharan Sharma, Kaushik Roy, Indian express Adda, Express Adda, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsRavi Shastri was in conversation with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group; and Sriram Veera, Deputy Associate Editor, The Indian Express (File)

At the recent e.Adda, former Head Coach of Indian cricket team, Ravi Shastri spoke on the recent Virat Kohli-Sourav Ganguly controversy, similarities between himself and Kohli, and on the tough decisions he had to make as the team’s head coach.

On residues of unpleasantness with Sourav Ganguly

I see zero residue. I have every right to react and he has every right to react. Let us not forget that we are both cricketers and we know the game. So if there are certain instances, just because you both have played that game, you both feel you know the game. That does not mean you agree on everything or disagree on everything.

On Virat Kohli contradicting Ganguly

With good communication, this could have been handled much better. Instead of this being out in public domain, it could have been much better if there was communication. Virat has given his side of the story, now it is for the BCCI President to come and give his side of the story or a clarification. It is not a question of who is lying, it is a question of what is the truth. We want to know the truth and that can only come with dialogue. You need dialogue from both sides. One party has given one side of his explanation.

Virat Kohli and Sourav Ganguly

On bowling coach Bharat Arun saying Virat reminds him of a young Shastri

Pretty fair. Virat was pretty aggressive the way he thought about the game. I was pretty similar from a very young age. Before I was 25, I played against the best in the world. If you had to compete with the best in the world, you had to get into a mindset which was competitive. I see a lot of that in Virat. Passionate about wanting to succeed, there was that drive, hunger, self-confidence in his ability. It rubbed off on other players in the team.

On being thought of as Kohli’s left-hand man, yes man

I don’t give importance to such things. People have every right to say, write and speculate what they want to. That does not mean I go down and dive in when that is not my space. The relationship was fantastic. It was two like-minded people going about their job in a professional manner.

On tough decisions like dropping Ajinkya Rahane in South Africa, M Vijay being let go and a bit of unrest in 2018 during the England tour

One of the toughest jobs as a coach is probably selection. But in the seven years where I was involved, I had zero agenda when it came to picking a player in the team. Absolute zero agenda. If I felt that a guy was good for the team in the form he was in, and looking at the past and experience as well, I would convey that to the captain or the management. I would give my opinion based primarily on the interest of the team and not individuals.

On R Ashwin saying he felt ‘crushed’ hearing Shastri say that Kuldeep Yadav is the No. 1 Indian spinner overseas

My job is not to butter everyone’s toast. My job is to state facts without agenda. Ashwin did not play the Test in Sydney and Kuldeep played, bowled brilliantly and took five. So it’s only fair I give that young kid, who was probably playing his second Test overseas and he bowled magnificently, he bowled as well as any spinner has overseas. So I said the way he has bowled here, there is every chance he could be India’s No. 1 overseas. If that hurt some other player, then good. In hindsight, I am glad I made that statement. Because if it hurt Ashwin and he was upset, I am glad the way he went about his job.

I am the kind of coach who will want a player to say, “I am going to show this coach. I want to teach him a lesson and show him what I am all about.” So if it upset him, I am very happy. It made him do something different, which he did. The way he was bowling in 2019 and the way he bowled in 2021 in Australia, was chalk and cheese. I will go for the cheese any day. And being thrown under the bus, Ash need not worry, because I had already spoken to the bus driver and told him to stop two feet short! (Smiles). It was a message to Ashwin that you need to be fit, you need to play the whole series.

R Ashwin

On speaking to Ashwin post-injury

There were talks with him to get fitter. I had a chat with him even after 2019, that he is bowling only 60-70 per cent of his capacity and still taken 375-400 wickets. If he gets that fitness right, that strike-rate will go through the roof, not just in India but even overseas. The last thing a coach wants is you say something and then the player goes and sulks like a cry-baby. I’d rather have a guy tell you on your face, “I’ll show you.”

On players being afraid during the time Shastri and Virat ran the ship

Not really. I know I am not saying anything with any sort of agenda. I am saying it in the interest of the team and knowing fully well that if I can get that message across in that fashion and it upsets the guy, then he works his backside off to come back. Who is the beneficiary? It is me and the team.

On feeling vulnerable when his hero, his father passed away

Just the way he brought me up. Just the way he communicated with me right through my career. Like he told me whatever you do, if you want to perform and be worthy of your salt, get out to Australia, and do it there. They play their cricket harder than anyone. He had said you have already done well in West Indies (I had got a hundred there). When I first captained an U-19 team to England in 1981, AIDS was in news and things of that sort. He didn’t say even one time to be careful about these things. He just said play your cricket and learn some English manners when you come back.

And I saw the way he operated as a doctor. Selfless. Till two days before he died, he was in his two clinics at Mahim and Dharavi. The work he did was fabulous. If you go there, no one knows Ravi Shastri; they will know Dr Shastri. He was my buddy. I had my first beer with him when I was 17 or so. Once, I was caught by a warden in KSCA (Karnataka State Cricket Association) during my U-19 days, drinking beer with couple of colleagues. When I was summoned downstairs to speak to the secretary — I was the captain of the U-19 team — and when he went, “Do you know what you have done?” I said, “I have a beer with my father. He has no issues. It’s not affecting me on the field with my performances. What’s the problem?” That was it. Open and shut case.

Ravi Shastri with Virat Kohli

On being told to open in Pakistan

It was in Faisalabad, I think. Sandy (Sandeep Patil) and me were both injured. He had a hamstring injury and I had split my webbing and had not held a bat for a month. And the team were getting smashed. We were having Gordon’s dry gin in the afternoon over a biryani when Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar) knocked the door. He said, “Ah! You guys seem to be having a good time. When are those stitches coming off?” I said, in a day or two. “Good! Get rid of the stitches and you are going to open with me next game.” There and then, my head went straight. I am thinking, I want to do this. Here is the opportunity. We are 4-0 down in the series, Imran, Sarfraz, the two umpires combined have cleaned us up. Off went the stitches, and I practised for a day-and-a-half, went into the game, and was all at sea for half hour. I didn’t know where the runs were coming but I went through that phase and got a hundred. And I never looked back. Rest is history.

On conflict of interest in BCCI

I think it’s over the top this conflict of interest … You are not giving your own cricketers a chance. A masseur with the Indian team cannot work with an IPL team. Now tell me how is that conflict of interest?Another country’s player, or another country’s coach can come and coach in an IPL team but you are not allowing your own players to do it. Conflict of interest is nonsense. Not being allowed to do commentary (IPL) when I’m the coach of India, how is that conflict of interest? I’m not a selector of a team. How am I going to influence anyone from being picked to play for India? Yet if there’s a Ricky Ponting there, who is assistant coach of Australia (and) who is the coach of Delhi Capitals, he can do TV in his own country, and comment on players who are with him for Delhi Capitals. It should be thrown into the bin. We need our cricketers to get the exposure and come back into the system. How are you going to get the Sachin Tendulkars or the Dravids to come back and contribute to the game if you put a conflict of interest clause?

On running a player management firm and captaining at the same time

Yes, I agree with you. There (as in the case of MS Dhoni), it’s different. I’m talking from the cricketing point of view. Governance level, I agree with you. Then you need someone of that stature to come in and say this is not right, there is a conflict here and there could be ramifications in the future if we go down this route.

***

Hemendra Kothari
Chairman, DSP investment managers

How did you make the team come back against Australia and fight so well?

It wasn’t easy after 36 all-out in Adelaide but you knew you had to strike immediately in the next Test. Ajinkya (Rahane) hit that century and led very well. The bowlers stuck to their task. The important thing was that self-belief, rather than laying emphasis on negative things. That 36 had us losing in two days and just one session. But the positive I took out of that is we dominated the two days and it was one session that let us down. So, let’s take those two days into Melbourne. Then Melbourne happened. And the belief that we can hang in this Test series. Then came Sydney where Ash and Vihari were magnificent. We won the series there in many ways. We got Australia thinking they are going into Gabba but they have everything to lose.

At Gabba, I remember saying in the huddle that you are still an Indian cricket team. People aren’t bothered about who is playing, who is injured; they know there is an Indian cricket team out there and you are part of this Indian team. Take one session at a time and let’s play not to fill in the numbers but to compete and go for the jugular.

Sharan Sharma
Director, gunjan saxena: The Kargil girl

How do you create a sense of security within the team?

When you have that kind of talent pool, you choose which format to try out talent. You’ve got to think of rebuilding, take the harsh decisions of benching seniors and bringing in youth to strike balance. But again, fast bowlers age, batsmen get slow. So in this Covid-19 era, you’ve your best opportunities, to give players mental breaks, so they aren’t day-in and day-out in bubbles. Don’t take bilateral series seriously, rather prepare a team to play big World Cups.

Harsh Goenka
Chairman, RPG enterprises

How do you do manage the fragile egos of cricketers with god-like status in India? Whenever I met Virat Kohli, he has been very intimidating. Is it easy for you or youngsters to contradict him and give your opinion?

Yes. It becomes easier for me, because you have been around, they know your stature. They know I am not someone you play marbles or carrom with. You look at him differently from where he has been, what he’s done, and what he’s here for, standing in front of you and communicating with you. Very clearly, they knew that this guy had no agenda. It was pure straight talk and you could trust him.

Egos will be there. In any family, there will be different personalities. It’s about how you break it down. How you use all those egos, channelise them in right direction and make them play as a team. There is no room for individual brilliance; it’s collective brilliance that helps the team to grow.

Kaushik Roy
Advisor, Reliance Industries Ltd

As a player and also as a coach, how do you plan for a match with Pakistan, which is different from any other team?

You don’t prepare differently. You just look at results. If you look at the last 20 years, the number of times we played them in international events, winning ratio would be 90-plus per cent. So why do you change anything? Just being aware or not being complacent on that day… It’s being aware of cutting out all the stuff from the outside and focusing on just your strengths and treat Pakistan just like any other opponent, and get about doing your job.

****

Quick questions:

One current sportsperson you admire the most

Rafael Nadal — the bullish way he plays and his energy. Competing in the (Roger) Federer and (Novak) Djokovic era, he’s at the top of his game and has seen the ups and downs in injuries. But on that court, especially in Paris, you see that relentless resolve. He guts-it-out there.

The best coach ever of Indian team?

The best Test team coach is Ravi Shastri by a country mile, I would say. I would leave it at that.

Should sports betting be legalised in India?

I will be for it. It’ll generate tremendous revenue for the government, tax wise. More you try and shut it down, the more it will be in your face through alternate channels.

Iqbal, Lagaan, Dhoni or 83… your favourite cricket film?

83. I had tears in my eyes when I saw it, not because I was part of the team. It brought back so many memories.

One sport you will advise every cricketer to play recreationally.

Swimming. In case you learn it early, it’s next best to meditation. It’s lot of breathing, stretching and keeps away from injuries. Even the great Denis Lillee when he had to recover from multiple back injuries, took to the pool and made his back like a rock.

Who should be India’s ODI captain?

Rohit Sharma. You should have one captain in white ball cricket.

Who should be the Test captain?

Virat, without a doubt. Look at what he has done. He has been an ambassador for Test cricket like no one else. If you go by results, who is close to him? I don’t see any captain in the world today who leads with that kind of passion.

Eminent guests who participated in the e.Adda include Dharmakirti Joshi, Chief Economist, CRISIL; Dorab Sopariwala, Editorial Adviser, NDTV; Sajjid Chinoy, Chief India Economist, JP Morgan; Deven Bharti, Addl. DGP, Maharashtra Police;Anu Malik, Music Composer;  Sanjiv Navangul, CEO and Managing Director, Bharat Serums & Vaccines; Yoginder Alagh, Vice Chairman, Sardar Patel Institute of Economic and Social Research; Chhaya Momaya, Life Coach, Pagoda Advisors

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