Updated: June 5, 2022 9:55:16 am
We needed some 15-20 runs more to beat Pakistan in the final of the 1985 Benson & Hedges tournament. I had a look at square-leg to check the field set by Javed Miandad, Pakistan’s captain. Javed perked up from midwicket.
“Tu baar baar udhar kya deke raha hai” (Why are you looking there repeatedly?) he said in his characteristic lisp. “Gaadi ko kyun dekh raha hai?!” (Why are you looking at the car). Voh nahi milne waali hai tere ko! (You are not going to get it!).”
That’s when I had one proper look at it, and told him, “Javed, meri taraf hi aa Rahi hai! (It’s coming my way, only!)”.
So, in some ways, the fun had started before I got the keys. When I got the keys from Ian Chappell in the post-match ceremony, I heard a buzz behind him. I look around and my teammates are already all over the car. Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar) was in the passenger seat. Kapil was at the back. Others were climbing. I told Ian, ‘one minute, I will be back’.
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I went, sat inside, turned on the ignition, and saw the petrol indicator suggest there was a bit of petrol. Enough for a spin. And before the organisers or anyone could react, I had started the car, and we were off.
Jimmy (Amarnath) was at the bonnet. I remember Sadanand Vishwanath was on the top, and the legend was moving from back to front with his spike shoes apparently in the air but had created enough scratches. Crazy happy times.
As a recall factor, more than most things I have done in my life, this car stands at the top. The six sixes had a recall value but this is the biggest in my career. The circumstances aligned: The timing of one-day cricket, day-and-night matches coming in from Australia, Channel 9 coming into India for the first time, 1983 was all whites, this was colour clothing and that pristine telecast. And of course when you get Pakistan in a final, no one can ever forget it – if you win it.
Years later, I remember I was in Frankfurt in Germany on a holiday, having a nice pint of typical German beer. A big, tall Pathan walked across, obviously from North-Western frontier of Pakistan or Afghanistan. He recognised me and the first thing he asked me was, “Oh Shastri Ji, voh Gaddi ki ki haal chaal!” (How is the car?). I said ‘bikul teek-taak!” (It is fine). That’s the kind of reach it has.
As I tweeted, it’s just not my car, it’s a national asset and the Indian team’s car because that’s what it is. It will be forever remembered for that drive at MCG. A happy team, a world-cup winning team, and now another big ODI tournament in Australia – people don’t forget all that. That drive was in front of 50,000 people, that time a record probably for a non-Australia game. Those memories stay etched in memories of people, especially of my generation and those who were 7-10 years younger than me.
Thousands at the docks
It came a couple of months after the tournament, courtesy the shipping corporation of India. I still remember that day, in some ways the highlight for me with that car. At the docks, there were 8,000-10,000 people to have a look at it as it came out from the container of the ship. I refused to drive the car as I was wary that I might bang into people as I still wasn’t fully hands-on with that Audi. I had someone from Audi, a proper driver, to get it home. All along the way, people were honking from bikes and it was quite a celebration and I still don’t know how it reached my home without a scratch.
Talking of scratches, that memorable drive at the MCG had left the car with lots of scratches, dents, and champagne. And Audi were kind enough to send a brand-new car.
Wherever I go in the world, if I need a car to drive, they provide me with one. I must have driven the Audi the most in England. In that old Audi, I have gone to Alibag and to Shirdi (Sai Baba temple). Initially, my father also would occasionally take it out for drives to the races on Sundays with his friends. He was a doctor, a most selfless one, who till two days before he died, was in his two clinics at Mahim and Dharavi. If you go to those places, even if they don’t know me; they will know Dr. Shastri. He was my buddy, my hero, the man who taught me how to live life on my terms.
He stopped taking that car out as he would be hounded at traffic lights. There weren’t many four-rings Audi then, and then that number plate MFA 1, everyone knew it was mine. They would throng the car, thinking I would be there. So he stopped driving it.
As I sat in the newly restored car, all the MCG memories came flooding back. Who was sitting where, what we did, all the good times. How the prime minister had then allowed me to get it duty-free; incidentally only after this it was legally allowed for any sportspeople to bring the car back to India duty-free if they won it in a tournament.
The best thing about this is that my daughter saw the car for the first time ever in her life. She sat in it for the first time. In the days to come, I shall take her for a spin in it. In some sense, the circle of life would be complete.
(Ravi Shastri is a former India Test cricketer, former coach and commentator. He spoke to Sriram Veera)
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