Ravi Shastri believes in living a life king-size, no middle path for him. Though his own cricket was more conservative than expansive, his post-playing life has been marked by hyperbole, be it his television commentary or his utterances outside of it. He once famously called the fugitive Lalit Modi the Moses of World Cricket after IPL became the signature of Indian cricket.
Against all odds, Ravi Shastri became coach of the Indian team two years back, and just when it appeared that he would get an extension, he was replaced by a bigger name, Anil Kumble. His one-year tenure with the Indian team had produced outstanding results, but that was something that one expects of the Indian team when they are playing at home.
Despite those wins, Ravi Shastri’s stint was not free of controversy. The preparation of doctored wickets became a bone of contention. During Kumble’s reign, the wickets were normal, dusty, slow turners which did not make conditions too lopsided in India’s favour. That was not the case when Shastri helmed the team. Vicious turners, especially against the South Africans, did not go down well with many, though in the end what mattered was the result. And results were what the Shastri-Virat Kohli combine produced in abundance.
It was no surprise that when Kumble replaced him a year later, Shastri went out fuming, even alleging that he was humiliated by Sourav Ganguly, one of the three cricket legends who were responsible for his ouster. Shastri accused the former India captain of leaving the interview process when his turn to present his credentials came.
With Kumble doing an outstanding job, no one visualised Shastri’s return till it emerged that Kohli was not happy with the former leg spinner’s style of functioning. In what can be seen as the failure of the Cricket Board and the troika of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman to tame captain Kohli, Kumble quit and Shastri is back. It is no secret that Kohli wanted Shastri and despite the candidature of Virendra Sehwag and Tom Moody, Kohli’s wishes were fulfilled.
Since in cricket the captain always has his say, maybe the Cricket Advisory Committee comprising Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar had no choice but to listen to Kohli. But the drama that preceded Shastri’s appointment does little credit to the Board, the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators and even the legends who made the final decision.
There was confusion on Tuesday, before the Board finally confirmed the news at night, and no one was sure whether the leak regarding Shastri’s appointment to a TV channel — where one of the three cricketers is an expert — was true or not. The Board first officially denied the news, only to confirm it later. This is not how a professional body is run.Anyhow, coming back to Shastri and what lies ahead, it is not going to be easy, certainly not like it was during his first stint. The simple reason being that India is going to play most of its cricket outside India in 2017-18. No home conditions are going to come to its rescue. It will have to produce results in South Africa, England, and Australia, countries where India has faced resounding defeats of late.
No wonder, the Cricket Committee has entrusted the responsibility of being overseas batting coach to Rahul Dravid and made Zaheer Khan the bowling coach. These two players can make a difference and control the Kohli-Shastri duo from becoming all too powerful in running the team.