Be it on the field or off it, Ravi Shastri oozes swagger! One of the many Bombay-products of the 80s, Shastri wasn't particularly talented and had to work very hard to achieve his goals. He started off his international career as a lower-order dasher but soon became India's stonewaller at the top of the order. He also took 280 wickets with his left-arm spin and once he retired from the game, Shastri became a successful commentator. Well, that's not it, he is also currently the head coach of the Indian team. That's some resume!
A TEAM PLAYER
Shastri made his first-class debut for Bombay at the age of 17, just after he won the Harris-Shield as captain in the final year of his school. And within a year, he had made his India debut. He came into the side for his left-arm spin and batted at No. 10 on his Test debut against New Zealand in 1981. However, 18 months later he found himself opening the batting and by the end of his career, Shastri had batted at every position from 1 to 10. Meanwhile, in ODIs, he batted at every position except No. 4.
Shastri was bold and flamboyant but had a very contrasting batting approach. He had this ultra-defensive batting approach but it worked for him, especially overseas where he scored seven of his 11 centuries. He was first asked to open the innings in the 1982 tour of England and the right-hander made a mark by scoring a gritty 175-ball 66 at The Oval. Later that year, when India toured Pakistan, Shastri couldn't play four of the six Tests because of an injury. When he made his return in the final Test at Karachi, he was once again asked to open the innings and Shastri crafted his first Test century against the likes of Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir.
He followed it up with yet another century against a strong West Indies side and the team management knew they have unearthed a player who can bat at every position. While his Test career kind of took off after that century against Pakistan, Shastri was still finding his feet in ODIs. He was part of the 1983 World Cup-winning side but didn't play most of the important matches, including the semi-final and the final. Later that year, Shastri had a brilliant home Test and ODI series against West Indies and did well with both bat and ball.
He had a solid home ODI series against Australia and England in 1984 and even scored a century against each of them. Shastri kept contributing in all three facets of the game but as a player, he will always be known for his "The Champion of Champions" performance in the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985. Shastri was in top form and ended the tournament with 182 runs and eight wickets. He scored three consecutive fifties, with two of them coming in the semi-final and final against New Zealand and Pakistan respectively. His efforts helped him win the player of the series award, the award being an Audi car.
"They (team of 85) will give any team that India puts up in white-ball cricket, a run for their money. That team of 85 will give this team a run for money. I go one step ahead and say the team of 1985 was a stronger team compared to 1983," Shastri recently said during the Sony Ten Pit Stop show on the channel's Facebook page.
Earlier that year, Shastri also equalled West Indian great Gary Sobers' world record of six sixes in an over in a Ranji Trophy encounter against Baroda. He was also appointed as the vice-captain in 1985 and stayed at that position for many years but only captained in one Test and 11 ODIs. After Kapil Dev was sacked from the captaincy, Dilip Vengsarkar, K Srikkanth and Mohammad Azharuddin followed as the captains of the Indian team but Shastri never got his due.
While his batting kept improving, Shastri himself admitted that he ignored his bowling but did make quite a few match-winning contributions. Shastri claimed 11 four-wicket hauls and two five-wicket hauls in Test cricket. In ODIs, he took four or more wickets three times.
One of his finest knocks however came in the year 1992 when he scored a solid century in the second innings at Bridgetown against the likes of Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop. On his final tour of England in 1990, Shastri slammed two centuries in three Tests. "Watching Shastri bat is like admiring the Qutub Minar; tall, timeless, solid. You admire it for the virtues, not for its style. For nine hours and 21 minutes, he chiselled away the England attack and the sculpture that he left behind represented perseverance and craft. He may never be a Gavaskar, but he at least represents the great man's virtues, even if by proxy. It would be a relief too, to know that he will never throw away his wicket for nobody guards his crease more fiercely," said Harsha Bhogle about Shastri's performances in England.
A few months later, he scored his first Test double century against Australia, his favourite opponent. Of batsmen who have played at least 10 Test innings against Australia, only Eddie Paynter averages more than Shastri.
Shastri was forced to retire at the age of 31 due to a recurring knee injury. He first suffered that injury during that knock of 206 in Sydney and it kept getting worse and worse. He later did travel to Zimbabwe and South Africa but when England were scheduled to come to India, Shastri once again injured his knee prior to the series and was out of cricket for eight months. He did play a few first-class matches next season but could never make a comeback to the Indian side. He might not have been that talented but Shastri always punched above his weight!
THE COMMENTATOR FOR BIG OCCASIONS
Shastri made his debut as a TV commentator in 1995 and went on to make quite a name for himself. Be it be S Sreesanth taking Misbah-ul-Haq's catch in the 2007 World T20 final or MS Dhoni smoking the World Cup-winning six in 2011 or Yuvraj Singh smashing six sixes in an over, Shastri was always there. There were clichés but there was never a dull moment when Shastri was on air. Plus, Shastri has a booming voice that always stands out.
"Edged and taken."
"He flashes and flashes hard."
"That went like a tracer bullet."
"That's exactly what the doctor ordered."
"Make no mistake about it, it is a pressure cooker situation."
These are few of his famous one-liners that he keeps on using and have been embedded in our mind, for good reason.
THE COACHING JOURNEY
Shastri was first made manager of the team for a series after India suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2007 World Cup. In 2014, he was made the Team Director after India's poor outings overseas. Even after Duncan Fletcher left as India's coach, Shastri continued his role till early 2016.
He was finally made the coach of the India team after Anil Kumble left the post following India's defeat in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy. Shastri has formed a solid bond with the Indian captain Virat Kohli and India have been playing some outstanding cricket under him. Under him, India for the first time won a Test series in Australia. The 2019 World Cup was a big test for Shastri but India lost to New Zealand in the semi-final. However, his contract has been extended till the 2021 T20 World Cup. Shastri and his team are "obsessed" about winning a World title and the 58-year-old is not one of those who backs down from a challenge.