What’s Eat­ing Ravi Shas­tri?

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Anand Vasu,

Happy fam­i­lies are all alike; ev­ery un­happy fam­ily is un­happy in its own way. Win­ning cricket teams, sim­i­larly, are usu­ally all alike, bub­bling over with that ephemeral thing called team spirit, while los­ing teams squab­ble over whose fault it is: cap­tain, coach, se­lec­tors, the sys­tem. Ravi Shas­tri is usu­ally an in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive per­son. Whether it comes to his own cricket, his role as a me­dia pro­fes­sional and later his po­si­tions as man­ager, di­rec­tor of cricket and head coach, Shas­tri al­ways sees the cup as half full. When he spoke to the me­dia on the side­lines of In­dia’s prac­tice session at the Sin­halese Sports Club ground on Tues­day, how­ever, there was a dis­tinct edge to the tone and tenor of his an­swers. This was not a day for tracer bul­lets and cricket be­ing the win­ner. This was a day when the head coach was pro­tect­ing his team from some per­ceived en­emy. As though un­der siege, Shas­tri an­swered even the most straight­for­ward ques­tions with some­thing more than firm­ness.

There is a fine line be­tween con­fi­dence and ar­ro­gance, a tricky tightrope that sep­a­rates self-be­lief from boor­ish­ness, and while you ex­pect young crick­eters to end up on both sides of the di­vide, es­pe­cially in the heat of the mo­ment, un­pro­voked ag­gres­sion from a coach is not an everyday oc­cur­rence.

With a pla­toon of sup­port staff in the dress­ing-room, Shas­tri was asked what ex­actly his role was. “My role is to be in charge of the en­tire sup­port staff and to make sure that we get the boys in some great men­tal space to go out and ex­press them­selves with noth­ing else on their minds but to go out and play a brand of cricket which you have seen In­dia play over the last three years — that is pos­i­tive and fear­less.” So far so good. When asked how he does this, Shas­tri shot back: “That is a skill, that is why I am here (in the dress­ing-room) and you are there (in the press box).” When Shas­tri was asked what changes he had brought to the dress­ing-room at­mos­phere, he was once again tetchy. “I wasn’t there for the last 12 months so I on what he would do to avoid be­ing in a Kum­ble-like sit­u­a­tion

don’t know. But when I got in it was pretty much from where I left. I didn’t see any change, the nu­cleus of the team is pretty much the same and I know what to ex­pect from them, they know what to ex­pect from me. There is no need of rein­vent­ing the wheel or any­thing of that sort.” And, when some­one in­quired what Shas­tri would do to en­sure he was not over­bear­ing, some­thing Anil Kum­ble was ac­cused of, the an­swer was laced with sar­casm. “When you have been around the game for 37 years, you prob­a­bly learnt a lit­tle bit. So that ex­pe­ri­ence is very handy for me in know­ing ex­actly how to deal with the play­ers,” said Shas­tri, who added that the time he spent away from the team was al­most erased from his mind. “I don’t carry any bag­gage. For me it was like walk­ing into the dress­ing room as I had left it. Noth­ing had changed and no spe­cial but­tons I had to press. It was just that one play but­ton and off you went,” said Shas­tri, who added that he did not need to work any mir­a­cles. “I don’t know what it was like 10 months ago. As far as I am con­cerned I just had to walk in. That was enough.”

Hit the play but­ton? Just walk in? Surely coach­ing the In­dian cricket team is not as easy as that? “I have been man­ager, di­rec­tor, now I am head coach. It’s the same role. Ab­so­lutely the same role. So there is noth­ing that I have to change. The fact that you played the game and watched the game for long pe­ri­ods of time with­out a break does help. So you know what’s con­tem­po­rary and what’s hap­pen­ing at the mo­ment and you re­late with peo­ple in that fash­ion,” ex­plained Shas­tri.

“I don’t think at this level coach­ing is needed. At this level it is all about fine tun­ing and get­ting the blokes in good men­tal space to go out and play the game. They know they have reached here be­cause they are good. At times you might need to just fine tune them a bit be­cause the amount of cricket that’s be­ing played you might just get into the odd bad habit with­out re­al­is­ing it. That’s where the ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing played, prob­a­bly hav­ing watched you can pick it up and pass the mes­sage.” What­ever happy mes­sag­ing is hap­pen­ing within the con­fines of the dress­in­groom, it cer­tainly did not seem to ex­tend from the coach to the out­side world.

I don’t carry any bag­gage. For me it was like walk­ing into the dress­ing room as I had left it. Noth­ing had changed and no spe­cial but­tons I had to press. It was just that one play but­ton and off you went. I don’t know what it was like 10 months ago. As far as I am con­cerned I just had to walk in. That was enough

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