Team India head coach Ravi Shastri, it seems, is on an overdrive to settle scores with his critics. However, his statements post the England series last year and now, after India’s historic first ever Test series victory in Australia, have come under criticisms. Not without reasons, though.
“I will tell you how satisfying it is for me. World Cup 1983, World Championship of Cricket 1985 – this is as big, or even bigger, because it is in the truest (Test) format of the game. It’s Test cricket, which is meant to be the toughest,” Shastri said in the post-match press conference.
Such a statement, undoubtedly, took everyone by surprise. Shastri could well have said if this series victory meant more than the first ever triumph in West Indies (1970-71) or England (1971). Or for that matter any other away series wins against fantastic sides.
As a cricketer, Ravi Shastri was a ‘utility player.’ Though he started his career as a slow left arm orthodox bowler, Shastri’s fate changed after the sixth and final test of the series to Pakistan in 1982 when his former Mumbai mate and India skipper Sunil Gavaskar, made him open at Karachi. Against a fiery attack that included Imran Khan, Shastri scored a ton. A couple of years later, in the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup, 1985, he bagged the Champion of Champions award for his all round performance. It was indeed Shastri’s most glorious moment on the field.
He was a member of the team that had greats, among others, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar. And, of course, Sachin Tendulkar -though towards the end of his (Shastri’s) career). Even then, India failed to achieve what Virat Kohli’s men have accomplished-a series win against Australia in Australia.
On a number of occasions India had come close to beating the Aussies in their homeland, but couldn’t win the series. In recent times, the team led by Sourav Ganguly-remember it had Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble- had put up a sterling performance in the 2003-4 series, but the final result stood 1-1. Thus, Team India’s first ever series victory down under is indeed commendable.
However, to put this victory, even above India’s first World Cup win is far too much. Shastri’s comments were baffling. He knows it well, how invincible the Australian sides of the past had been, and therefore, should tell whether the one that India outplayed in all the departments of the game, was as good. Either he is fond of selective amnesia or believes all Australian sides are the same on their soil. Or, it is his ‘please the boss (Virat Kohli)’ tactics to remain in his good books.
There is absolutely no problem in that. But, to compare the series victory with 1983 World cup win, is simply bizarre. He was a part of both the tournaments-World Cup and Benson & Hedges World Series Cup- and knows what it meant to lift the prestigious trophies against high quality opponents. By any yardstick, 1983 World Cup victory was the most defining moment in India’s cricket history. Nothing can come anywhere close to it. Shastri should remember that.
Last September, following India’s humiliating series defeat in England, Shastri had said, “If you look at the last three years, we have won nine matches overseas and three-Test series. I can’t see any other Indian team in the last 15-20 years that have had the same run in such a short time, and you have had some great players playing in those series”. The last 15-20 years effectively meant the past Indian teams’ performances since the turn of the century under Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and M.S. Dhoni.
Then too, his comments drew flaks.