Cricket - Ravi Shastri
Ravi Shastri at his last day in office during India's final Super-12 game against Namibia in T20 World Cup on Monday. Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: The day after Ravi Shastri was finally done and dusted with his job on the hot seat, the larger-than-life Indian head coach admits there is a sense of relief after having achieved ‘‘job satisfaction’’ during his tenure. His phone hasn’t stopped ringing while the whatsapp messages flood the inbox on a job well done as well as media requests, though the former Indian allrounder admits that it will take a while for the ‘penny to actually drop’ about what the team achieved under him.

It was difficult not to get emotional after parting company with an extended family of sorts after a total of seven years, five of them as head coach, and it still bothers him that Virat Kohli & Co failed to make the knockout stages of the T20 World Cup. ‘‘This team deserved a ICC silverware, However, one tournament cannot take away the consistency and the brand of cricket they have played over a period of last four years,’’ Shastri said during an exclusive telephone interview with Gulf News from his hotel room.

Speculation has already begun on what would be the next move for the 59-year-old, who has been there and done that in the sport - be it a player, TV pundit for over 25 years, cricket administration and finally the coach. There is talk that it could be a top level role in one of the IPL franchises as the league gets bigger from next year - and Shastri keeps it open-ended for now. ‘‘Why not? After all, this is what I had been doing all these years,’’ he says.


How does he see being remembered when the contemporary history of Indian cricket is written? ‘‘I am not too fussed about it but if you ask me, it should be that of a bloke who made a difference. I wasn’t here to chase silverware though we have won several of them, be it bi-lateral series, Gavaskar-Border Trophy, but silverware will come and go. It’s something which you will have to polish when you get old. I would rather be remembered as someone who infused steel in these boys,’’ he said.

It’s a fact that India have failed to win a major ICC tournament since the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, but the partnership of Shastri and Virat Kohli has had several high points in their journey - especially in red ball cricket. It worked well for the coach that his captain shared the same passion and respect for Test cricket - something which saw them claw back to No.1 in Test rankings, win back-to-back Test series in Australia and left a series drawn in England after the decider was postponed due to a Covid scare.

Coach Ravi Shastri, right, talks to Virat Kohli, left, and Hardik Pandya
Team talk: Ravi Shastri (right) with Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya during a training session. Image Credit: AP

‘‘Those two Test series wins in Australia, I will not exchange it for anything...mind you, anything that I may have achieved as a player or coach,’’ he says on being asked which avatar of him he would like to remember as his best. ‘‘I have no choice but to remember this job as my best. Yes, my playing days were there when I won the World Cup or World Series Championship. However, the magnitude of what this boys have done were unexpected and that’s why I said in my dressing room address that you have over-achieved,’’ he said.

Asked what went on behind the process of helping the team win Tests abroad, Shastri said: ‘‘My experience of being connected with the game for four decades made a difference in the brand of cricket the team played. I have myself tried to play the game that way and the idea was to move on from the label of being flat track bullies at home and win abroad.’’

My experience of being connected with the game for four decades made a difference in the brand of cricket the team played. I have myself tried to play the game that way and the idea was to move on from the label of being flat track bullies at home and win abroad

- Ravi Shastri

The jury is often out on how good was Shastri as a coach - a superb tactician or a good manager? There have been media reports that he took a proactive role in diffusing the ego battle that may have crept in between Kohli and Rohit Sharma during the team’s long stint away from home during the bubble life.

Asked how he went about his task, Shastri said without going into specifics: ‘‘You need to have that stature and command respect. This is something that Rahul Dravid has and we will see how it goes from here onwards.’’

Shastri-Kohli relationship

The chemistry between Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri has often polarised opinions among Indian cricket fans, and the latter is not unduly bothered about it after his exit from the scene. ‘‘See, people are entitled to their opinions, but please remember we won two Asia Cups, one with MS and one with Rohit as well as the Nidahas Trophy. The bottomline is you also need the chemistry with your captain. It possibly helped that both of us were very aggressive.’’

During his tenure, Shastri had also been subject to some merciless trolling or criticism about the hyperboles he spoke in about his squad. ‘‘Yes, I have often made statements to take the heat away from the team. Remember when I called them the greatest travelling side in the world?’’ he said.

Would his work space have been better if he was around before social media took over in such a big way? ‘‘No this is better, I have the courage to get hammered. It’s my way of adapting to the modern social media,’’ he signed off.