Kolkata: Love him or hate him, but one cannot ignore the impact of Ravi Shastri in Indian cricket over the last four decades. As he is on the home stretch of his final term as the head coach of Indian team - spread over three legs - it was a payback time for the former Indian allrounder to acknowledge the synergy he enjoyed all along with his captain Virat Kohli and members of the team.
Even though Shastri had taken over the hot seat with Mahendra Singh Dhoni still at the helm of affairs, his chemistry with Kohli has been too well known. The combine had often taken Indian cricket to it’s highs, with two away series wins in Australia and climbing to the top of ICC Test rankings taking the cake, the failure to win a major ICC championship under them still hurts the Indian cricket fans.
Asked how much of his aggression and in-your-face attitude as a player had Shastri been able to infuse in the current team, who are in the middle of an up-and-down Test series against England, Shastri said: ‘‘The fact that me and the captain (Kohli) had been on the same page about the style of cricket we want to play has certainly helped. Most of the team members have believed in this philosophy that if we lose while trying to win, it doesn’t matter for at the end of it, you learn.’’
Striking an emotional note at the launch of his book, Star Gazing: The Players in My Life, at a London hotel on Tuesday night, Shastri said that the last seven years of his life as the head coach of the team had been the most ‘joyous ride’ of his life. Pointing to members of the Indian squad who were in full attendance, he said: ‘‘These boys had been writing a new chapter in Indian cricket every day.’’
‘Star Gazing’ is not an autobiography, but an anthology of Shastri’s recollections of 75 of the greatest players, captains whom he had seen along his journey - as legends, teammates, rivals and current players. Ayaz Memon, a senior editor and longtime friend of Shastri, co-authored the book published by Harper Collins. Kohli, meanwhile, paid his dues to Shastri when he revealed that his body had shook when he listened to the ‘Champion of Champions’ giving a pep talk to the team in 2014.
“I remember in 2014 he gave us a pep talk for the first time. We were a bit down as a team and things were not happening well and he was brought in, he was brought in for the second time to set things right. In his first speech he gave, the first word he said was ‘boys’ in the voice that only he can generate. And I clearly remember, I was sitting down and my body shook because I had never heard someone speak so clearly and with so much determination and positivity,” Kohli said.
“All I can say is that our working relationship has been built on trust and mutual respect, on a vision that has been shared. The only focus is to take Indian cricket higher and in a better place. Both of us together along with the brilliance of the whole team and the talent we have been blessed with, I think we have been able to achieve that and it’s something we are proud of,” Kohli said.
Present at the launch was Shyam Bhatia, a well known cricket connoisseur and businessman from Dubai, who had stationed himself in the UK since August to watch the series. ‘‘I have known Shastri for over four deacdes now since he made his international debut. The way he has evolved from a cricketer to a master commentator to a successful coach of the most high profile cricket team in the world had been really exemplary,’’ he told Gulf News.