Ravi Shastri: From ‘chapati shot’ to booming voice from behind the mic to coaching voyage

Ravi Shastri is former cricketer, commentator, and current head coach of the Indian national cricket team.

As a player, he played for the India national cricket team between 1981 and 1992 in both Tests and ODIs.

Although he started his career as a left arm spin bowler, he later transformed into a batting all-rounder.

As a batsman, Shastri was essentially defensive with his trademark “chapati shot” (a flick off the pads), but he could raise his strike rate when required.

Due to his above-average height (he stood 6′ 3″ tall) and an upright stance, he had a limited number of shots against fast bowling, but was able to put the lofted shot to good use against spin bowling.

Ravishankar Jayadritha Shastri is of Mangalorean descent, was born in Bombay on 27 May 1962

As a teenager, he took to cricket seriously. Playing for Don Bosco (Matunga), Shastri reached the final of the 1976 inter-school Giles Shield, finally losing to St Mary’s, whose lineup included two future Ranji players, Shishir Hattangadi and Jignesh Sanghani. The next year, under Shastri’s captaincy, Don Bosco won the Giles Shield in 1977, the first time in the history of that school. At school, his coach was B.D. Desai, once a Tatas and Dadar Union player. While Don Bosco was not traditionally a major force in schools cricket, the R.A. Podar College, where Shastri later studied commerce, produced many good cricketers. Vasant Amladi and, in particular, VS “Marshall” Patil, were integral figures in Shastri’s development as a cricketer.

In his last year at the junior college, he was selected to represent the Bombay team in the Ranji Trophy. At 17 years and 292 days, he was then the youngest cricketer to play for Bombay.

An Indian under–19 team was scheduled to tour Pakistan in 1980–81. Shastri was included in the coaching camp at the last minute by the National Coach Hemu Adhikari. Shastri captained one of the two teams in a trial game and was then asked to lead the Indian Under-19 team. The tour, however, was cancelled.

His only notable achievement in his first two Ranji seasons were bowling figures of 6-61, which he took against Delhi in the 1979–80 Ranji final that Bombay lost. While he was playing against Uttar Pradesh at Kanpur in the next season, he was called up to the squad touring New Zealand to stand in for the injured left arm spinner Dilip Doshi.

The Ranji final of 1984/85 turned out to be one of the finest matches in Indian domestic cricket history. Shastri top scored with 76 as Bombay set Delhi 300 to win in a day and ninety minutes. He took 8 for 91; Bombay won by 90 runs.

In the first one-day match against Pakistan he captained India for the first time, scoring 50 and taking three wickets.

In 1987, Glamorgan contracted Shastri to play for them. He stayed with them until 1991, with a break in 1990 due to India’s tour of England. Shastri’s presence did little for the fortunes of the county which finished at the bottom of the first class table in two of those seasons. Shastri topped 1000 runs in 1989 and scored hundreds in both innings against Middlesex. His best bowling performance of 7 for 49 (11 for 90) in the match came against Lancashire in 1988, where he got bounce and turn and was ‘unplayable’ according to Wisden. The almanack noticed that Shastri was already becoming reluctant to bowl.

Shastri won the leading six hitter award for the Sunday league matches of 1988 with 14 sixes. He was part of the MCC team that played a Rest of the World team in the MCC bicentennial match at Lord’s in 1987.

In September 1994, while in Sri Lanka covering the Singer World Series, Shastri announced his retirement from first class cricket.

Within eighteen months of his Test debut, Shastri had moved up from tenth position in the batting order to being an opening batsman. By the end of his career, he had batted in every position from one to ten.

By his own admission, he ignored his bowling in favour of his batting. This was reflected in his performances. However, his figures of 9-101 in the season-opening 1981 Irani Trophy stood as a tournament record for nearly twenty years.

In the final Test at Karachi, against the fast bowling of Imran Khan (then at the peak of his career), he scored his first Test hundred.

Shastri was not selected to play in most of the important matches in the 1983 World Cup.

In October 1984, India toured Pakistan for the third time in six years. The Lahore Test saw India collapse to 156 against Pakistan’s 428, and follow on. India went into the last day trailing by 92 with six wickets in hand but were saved by a fifth wicket partnership of 126 between Shastri and Mohinder Amarnath. Shastri scored 71, while Amarnath made 101*. Shastri was even more successful in the next Test at Faisalabad, where he scored 139 and shared a stand of 200 with Sandip Patil. The last Test and the remainder of the tour were cancelled because of the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

There were already signals that Shastri was being groomed as a future captain. Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar was coming to the end of his career and Kapil Dev, who had led India in the previous season, was expected to succeed him. Shastri appeared to be the next in line. He led the Young India side to Zimbabwe in early 1984. Against the touring English side in November, he led the India Under–25 to an innings win – the first defeat of England in a tour match in India for fifty years.

Around this time, Shastri also began to open the innings regularly in one day games.

Shastri’s success continued in Test matches against England. In the Bombay Test his 235 run stand with wicket-keeper Syed Kirmani led to victory for India. His 142 improved upon the 139 at Faisalabad as his highest score.

In the third Test at Kolkata, Shastri made 111 in 357 balls and 455 minutes, though his innings was heavily interrupted by rain. With Mohammad Azharuddin he added 214 for the fifth wicket, another Indian record. When India started the second innings late in the final day, he was sent in to open, thus becoming one of the few batsmen to bat on all five days of a Test.

Shastri set another record for Bombay against Baroda in a West Zone Ranji match. His first hundred came up in 72 minutes and 80 balls and included nine fours and four sixes. The second took just 41 minutes and 43 balls.

His 123 ball, 113 minute 200* became the fastest double hundred in first class history, beating the previous record by 7 minutes, and included 13 fours and 13 sixes. Six of the sixes came off a single over of the left arm spinner Tilak Raj.

In terms of the number of sixes, it bettered the 58-year-old Indian record of CK Nayudu who had struck 11 sixes against a touring MCC team at Bombay Gymkhana in 1926–7.

Shastri’s unfinished sixth wicket stand of 204* with Ghulam Parkar, who contributed only 33 to the partnership, took only 83 minutes.

The highlight of his career was when he was elected Champion of Champions in the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985. He won an Audi 100 car for his efforts. By the special order of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Indian customs waived the heavy duty its import would have normally entailed

In the same season, on 10 January 1985, he equalled West Indian Garry Sobers’s record of hitting six sixes in an over in first class cricket.

For Rothman’s cup Shastri served as the Indian vice captain for the first time. He continued as vice captain to Kapil Dev in the 1985–86 season.

In early 1987, he presented a 15-minute coaching series which went by the name ‘That’s Cricket’. This was aired on the national channel Doordarshan on Sunday mornings. There were even rumours of an involvement with actress Amrita Singh.

India travelled to West Indies in early 1989. Though a failure overall, Shastri played the best innings by either side in the series. It came at Bridgetown in the second Test. India trailed by 56 in the first innings and lost the six second innings wickets for 63. Batting at No.3, Shastri was last out for a courageous 107 out of 251 all out. Looking back at the end of his career, he was to consider this his finest innings. The bowlers were Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop and the pitch, difficult.

On the way back many of the Indian players took part in an exhibition match in United States. BCCI suspended the players. Though the suspension was later revoked, Vengsarkar was sacked. Srikkanth became the new captain and Shastri, yet again, the deputy. After an indifferent series in Pakistan, both were excluded from the tour of New Zealand in 1990. Azharuddin led an experimental team which a selector called the ‘team of the nineties’. Within a few weeks, the phrase got the status of a joke. Shastri was recalled for the tour to England that summer as the vice-captain.

Shastri’s career generally remained a struggle till the England tour of 1990 where he scored two hundreds in the three Test rubber.

Following the innings at Oval, Shastri scored his career best score of 217 in the Irani trophy in the opening match of the Indian season and a top score of 88 on a very bad wicket in the Chandigarh Test against Sri Lanka. He carried his bat for 101* against the same opponents in a one-day match a week later, reaching the hundred with a two off the last ball. Next year in South Africa’s first-ever ODI series on their return to international cricket, he scored 109 at Delhi, his fourth and last one day hundred.

At the end of 1991, India travelled to Australia for a five Test series, to be followed by the World Cup. Channel 9 dubbed it the Indian Summer. The series was a disaster for India – they lost four of the Tests – and was rife with umpiring controversies. But it also saw the final flourishes in the careers of Shastri and Kapil Dev.

Shastri took 5 wickets for 15 runs against Australia in an early match in the World Series Cup. It was then the best bowling figures by an Indian in ODIs. Most of the wickets were gratuitously earned, though – three batsmen were caught on the legside boundary and another stumped. In the third Test at Sydney, he scored his only double hundred in Test cricket, the first by an Indian against Australia. He was dropped in the sixties by the Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne, who was making his debut, off his own bowling. Amidst frequent interruptions by rain, he completed his hundred early on the fourth day and a six off Warne brought up the 150. He finally fell to a tired shot at Warne after nine and a half hours, scoring 206 with 17 fours and the two sixes, thus becoming Warne’s first Test wicket.

It was also during this innings that the knee injury that would soon end his career appeared for the first time.

He was regarded as a potential captain, but his image outside cricket, injuries and tendency to lose form at crucial times meant that he captained India in only one Test match.

He was forced to retire aged 31 due to a recurring knee injury.

On March 18, 1990, Shastri married Ritu Singh. Shastri became the father of Aleka at the age of 46 in 2008.

He made his debut as a TV commentator with the World Masters Tournament in Mumbai in March 1995.

In 2003, he collaborated in starting up Showdiff Worldwide, a celebrity management company. He has since served ICC and BCCI in temporary official capacities and as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Some of his temporary shows, such as Super Spells, still run Star Sports and related channels. He and fellow commentator Sunil Gavaskar ended their long-term associations with ESPN-STAR Sports in April 2008 as they were contracted by the BCCI as commentators for lucrative Indian Premier League which was broadcast by rival network Sony Max.

He temporarily coached the Indian cricket team for their 2007 Bangladesh tour. He was named the Celebrity Torchbearer for the Oman Leg of the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay.

In 2014, he became the director of Indian cricket team for a period of eight months from India’s tour of England till the 2015 World Cup.

On 13 July 2017, he was appointed as the head coach of Indian cricket team.

On 16 August 2019, he was re-appointed as the head coach of the senior men’s Indian team and will remain in charge until the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup



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