six-feet-four-inch frame lay supine at the Trinidad Hilton poolside,
taking in some sun, a casual star, in shorts and a T-shirt, shades
jauntily pushed up over a cap.
was Ravi Shastri, who reached the peak of his career in 1985 in Australia
as an all rounder for India, now a cricket commentator for ESPN Star and
TWI (Trans World International) beamed over Asian footprints to some 300
million or more people around the world.
wildly, unwilling to show the extent of my ignorance over the game, I kept
my first question when we sat down to talk.
me about yourself” I asked, only to be stumped with: “What do you want
in that hour I discovered his boyishly cheeky patina was simply the top
layer. He shot to the top but knew what it was to fall, and get up again,
and that recognition of human fragility gives him that edgy determination
to squeeze every drop out of life with gaiety.
I asked him to describe the injury that cost him his career, he reached
over and poked me under my knee, but so disingenuously I couldn’t take
Shastri, whose father is a doctor and mother a history and political
science teacher, would have been a doctor if he had listened to his
parents, but ended up playing cricket for India because his talent for the
game in school and college was so dramatically brilliant, all career paths
blended into one wide road - international stardom as a cricketer.
no time, he was playing for India non-stop, breaking records, scoring
centuries in Pakistan, and Antigua. He
said: “If you could make over a hundred runs against Imran Khan, Holder,
Marshall then your career was made.”
India, cricket is like religion. The crowds’ adulation is unreal, but if
you don’t live up to their expectations their disappointment can be
Shastri does see cricket as a means of achieving healthy camaraderie with
Pakistan, it is also a sacred emblem of nationalism. Without
blinking an eyelid he elaborated recklessly: “Every time India won
Pakistan, it bloody felt like an orgasm, yaar (friend).”
regrets India no longer plays Pakistan, but says the Government of India
understands the security risks better than he does.
dashing cricket star who had been linked to various Bollywood heroines,
married in 1990. Life couldn’t be better.
refused to divulge names, but admitted: “In terms of ego, I was placed
on top of a tree. I was on a perpetual adrenaline high, but it was also a
learning curve. I had to cope with jealousy.”
1991 when he was on a high, (having just scored a double 100 in a Test
match, being the first Indian to do so in Australia) “the most chilling
moment of my life”, he injured his posterior crucial ligament while
doctor told him bluntly his career was over. He battled on, but finally
quit in 1994 after repeated injuries, at the age 30.
cricket was in his blood, a part of his soul, and a combination of luck -
India was going through a television boom - and talent, got him back on
the road again, as a commentator.
is similar to playing cricket. You require the same skills. Fierce
concentration, work ethics, discipline.
is no margin to make mistakes when you are being heard by over 300 million
people. You can’t use commentary to voice your opinion if it is not
justified. If you slip up, you’re written off overnight.”
Indian Cricket team, despite Tendulkar, has a reputation for playing like
lions at home, and sheep abroad, buckling under pressure. And West Indian
cricket, despite Lara, has dropped many notches, been a disappointment.
said of the Test match being played here:
cricket, like West Indian cricket, is at a crossroads. India has the
making of a great team with payers like Rahul Dravid, Anil, and Tendulkar.
But it is mainly a psychological battle, a problem of confidence abroad
that the Indians have to overcome.
West Indian team is nowhere near the calibre of the 1980’s when to get a
draw against players the like of Richards, Marshall, Holdings, was a
victory. But they too are in transition.”
the teams manifested in Lara and Tendulkar (both dubbed as the worlds top
batsmen) and the fact their glory days appear to be behind them rather
than immediately ahead, appear to be evenly matched?
Shastri hopes India will win, while acknowledging it is difficult to beat
a team on home ground.
he respects the fact the Indians of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago are
West Indian and will support their region for this series.
And that, to me, summed up the nature of the man, Ravi
Shastri and cricket: a manifestation of nationalism, a display of
excellence, discipline, and resilience, while pushing the boundaries, but
also about teamwork, reaching out, and being a good sport.