India's Tour of Bangladesh: The Outspoken Mr Shastri
How will an aggressive Virat Kohli fare as captain? Is the question on the minds of every Indian cricket fan ahead of India's tour to Bangladesh. A lot may depend on team director Ravi Shastri, the man entrusted with the job of tempering the young skipper down. However, the tone and tenure of the team director during the pre-departure press conference suggests that the aggressive attitude, both on and off the field, is here to stay in Indian cricket.
"We have 3 coaches", thundered Ravi Shastri, referring to Sanjay Bangar, B Arun and R Sridhar- India's batting, bowling and fielding coaches. The Indian team director had earlier been asked why the team was travelling to Bangladesh without a head coach. He went onto add, "We don't need another coach. I will double up and do that job as well if needed"
Not satisfied, the media probed again. Only for the team director to shoot back like a tracer bullet, "As far as the coach is concerned there is no need, we have got enough in the cupboard to sort things out in Bangladesh"
The third time of asking the same question meant Ravi 'threw everything but the kitchen sink' at it, "No problem. No controversy. Speculation perception is your (media's) problem not mine. Coach no Coach. No worry"
For those present at the Indian team's pre-departure press conference in Kolkata, ahead of the Bangladesh tour, the aggressive tone and tenure of Mr Shastri didn't come as a surprise. After all, the man isn't known to take 'half-measures'. Just seven months ago, in another city, during another pre-departure media conference, Ravi Shastri had saidÂ "What did you say? Glenn McGrath predicts 4-0? Let him say what he wants, he is entitled to his opinion, he isn't going to bowl in the series, will he?"
A month later, not McGrath but Ravi got his prediction right: McGrath didn't bowl and India lost, not 4-0 but 2-0. And so, once again, at the end of the Australian test series, Mr Shastri flashed and flashed hard, "To hell with the scoreline. I don't give two hoots whether we lose 3-0 or 4-0. I am happy with the team's mindset to play to win. This team has pushed Australia hard and that's important to me"
You can accuse Ravi Shastri of many things, but you can never hold him guilty of being a fence sitter. The man seldom takes the 'aerial route', choosing to stand up for the Indian team, even at the risk of putting his neutral image as a commentator on the line. 2011? The Vaseline gate controversy in England? Here's what Ravi thought of the English commentators who dared to suggest that VVS Laxman had put Vaseline on the edge of his bat to escape the hawk-eye technology from detecting an edge, "They are jealous of how well the IPL is doing in india, they are jealous of where India is in world cricket. The bottom line is- they have never been world no 1 in cricket", the hostility in the veteran commentators voice was hard to miss.
Circa 2001: Mike Denness, former England cricketer and ICC's match referee commits the mistake of suspecting Sachin Tendulkar and co. for ball tampering and excessive appealing during the Port Elizabeth test. Ravi to the fore again, giving voice to a billion aggrieved fans. The cricketer turned media man asked direct and pointed questions of Denness, and when the official buckled under pressure, failing to answer a single one of them, Ravi made a statement-Â "If Mr Denness is not going to answer, why is he here? we all know what he looks like" !!!!!
As it turned out, it was proved later that Mr Denness had crossed the line; and remember, the 'line belongs to the umpire' or to the BCCI.
Subtle had never been Ravi Shastri's style, speaking for cricket's down trodden his second nature. 2002 saw the former India captain stand up for the cricketers in their fight against the BCCI over the issue of personal sponsors vs the team sponsors. Not the one to mince words, Ravi challenged Jagmohan Dalmiya on national TV, while the Kolkata strongman was still the Board president, "Mr Dalmiya this is for you if you are listening, the players are not just fighting the establishment for no reason. They want a dialogue and that's why they have appointed me as a spokesperson. I have been a former captain and I am sure you can understand that what I am saying is very simple"
Clearly, those in the media that have often labelled him as a BCCI man, a pro-establishment figure: You sirs have 'edged and will soon be taken'.
As for the Indian team, a blunt, straight talking and aggressive Ravi Shastri as a long term Team Director could just be what the doctor ordered.
"I will have had a chat with the board. I don't rule it out at all. I might be there a lot longer than you (one asking the question) thinks. We just made your (media's) day right?", said Shastri before boarding the flight to Dhaka.
Sadly, quotable quotes don't always make a journalist's day . But if the aggression at the press conferences can translate into good performances on the field, 'Cricket will surely be the winner'
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