By Suraj Rebello and Chris Vaz for Mangalorean.com
Pics: Joachim D'Souza
Muscat April 13, 2008: Ravi Shastri, ace cricketer and commentator par excellence, arrived in Oman on April 12th to be a part of the Olympic Torch relay to be held on April 14th in Muscat. Though bound by a tight schedule, Ravi Shastri was gracious enough to spend some time with Team Mangalorean at the Hyatt Regency, Muscat. Shastri was his usual svelte and confident self as he walked across the hotel foyer to meet us. It was not difficult to believe that at the height of his cricket career he had had a vast female fan following. He bowled us over with his charm, wit and most especially with his love for everything that was Mangalorean.
Excerpts from the interview (Interview date – April 13, 2008)
Mangalorean.Com: Congratulations on the Indian Team's victory against South Africa today in the third test. Any comments on the win?
Ravi Shastri: I did not expect the win within three days especially since the players were very tired as they had played a lot of cricket recently but this match was a good comeback. Anyways I am obviously happy with the result as it is very good news for Indian cricket.
M.Com: What are your views on Mahendra Dhoni's captaincy?
Ravi Shastri: We have two very good leaders in cricket - Anil Kumble and Mahendra Dhoni, both of them are extremely good and they have done well to sustain the interest of the team.
M.Com: It was a young team that won the match today. Do you think the senior players should now take a backseat?
Ravi Shastri: Indian cricket is on an upswing at the moment. There's a lot of cricket still to be played so the team has to be balanced. I believe, the one day cricket team needs young players and specially for the twenty/twenty matches in particular. We need the senior players specially in the test matches because they are experienced. And yes, the standard of fielding has to improve. Plus you have to rotate the players around. One has to look after the senior players like Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid and try and get the best out of them so that they can play for another couple of years.
M.Com: Since twenty/twenty matches are in vogue now, do you think this trend will replace the 50 overs match in future?
Ravi Shastri: Again a balance is needed. I definitely feel the twenty/twenty will eventually be more popular than a 50 overs match. In future we may not have the same number of one day cricket to be played because of the 20/20 coming in to play so they will have to share the slots.
M.Com: You started your own cricket career at a very young age and announced your retirement very early when your career was at its peak. What made you take this tough decision?
Ravi Shastri: I had two very serious knee injuries which started becoming chronic and I had no choice but to leave as I knew that I could not possibly play to the best of my ability. So literally I was forced out of cricket because of knee injury and nothing else. Now, I enjoy being a commentator as this still keeps me close to cricket.
M.Com: Why does India go for foreign coaches when we have so many good world class senior cricketers?
Ravi Shastri (slightly annoyed): It's not the question of foreign or Indian coaches. I have stressed this again in the Indian press also a hundred times, but people don't get the point. The point is the best man for the job. Whether he is Indian, Pakistani, Australian, English….whatever, you hire the best man for the job.
M.Com: Why is ICL called a rebel cricket organization?
Ravi Shastri (a bit more annoyed): I don't know. I am not part of the ICL. I am part of the IPL. If you ask me any questions on IPL you are most welcome.
M.Com: Talking about IPL, we feel there is too much of money, media hype and entertainment involved. Will the crowd come to see the entertainment or cricket at the end of the day?
Ravi Shastri (back to his charming self): I don't think so. I think the game needed something new. This could revolutionize the game of cricket. There's nothing wrong in people making money. It's also tremendous entertainment. You see a lot of families coming in to watch cricket. The good thing is it gets over in three hours. Another good thing is you don't know the result. Because its 20/20 any team can beat anybody. It's like a lottery.
M.Com: Should sledging on the field be allowed? If yes, then when and how do you draw the line between sledging and abuse/racial abuse?
Ravi Shastri: I never had problems with sledging but if it does get out of control, I think the match referee should reprimand the players. You know you don't want it to go out of hand. At the same time you don't want the players to 'wear bangles' and play a game of cricket.
M.Com: So what your saying is, sledging is acceptable but it should not involve racial abuse?
Ravi Shastri: You have to accept that in the heat of the moment, the tempers of the players are bound to go wild, so you got to expect sledging in sport, but you got to draw a line as well so it does not go out of bounds.
M.Com: What is your take on the recent Harbhajan and Symmonds controversy and the India/Aussie rivalry both on and off the field?
Ravi Shastri: I think it was nothing but media hype. It was completely blown out of proportion. If not, it would have been settled on the field itself.
M.Com: According to you, who is the greatest batsman and bowler? And who do you think is the best in the present times?
Ravi Shastri: It's very difficult to compare generations. In my generation, Vivian Richards was the best batsman and the fastest bowler I ever played against was Malcolm Marshall. In today's generation, I would say Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara stand out in the last decade and a half, and if you look at the bowlers, you can say Shane Warne, Wasim Akram and Muthiah Murlidharan who is still going strong. And you can't forget our own Anil Kumble. He's really not got the credit he deserves - he's an outstanding bowler, a real champion.
M.Com: How do you find the Oman Cricket Team?
Ravi Shastri: I really didn't get a chance to observe the team closely. I think they need more help from the ICC so that facilities improve here. I think for starters a stadium is built here to encourage the players and that could make a big difference.
M.Com: The younger generation of cricketers is visibly more aggressive compared to the older generation. What is the reason for this?
Ravi Shastri: It's in all walks of life. You can see it in all fields not just cricket. Compare your generation to the new generation. It's the same thing, and its watching a lot of sports, its growing up in a different era, that all makes a difference. But one needs the right balance between experience and youth.
M.Com: When did you last visit Mangalore and did you stay in your ancestral house?
Ravi Shastri: I went to Mangalore in August/September 2007. I didn't stay in my ancestral house but in a hotel because most of my family there has left and moved out of Mangalore. It's always nice to go to Mangalore. I'll try and make a point to go back every year as I have fond memories of Mangalore.
M.Com: Can you communicate in Sanskrit?
Ravi Shastri: No, I cannot speak in Sanskrit. The 'Shastri' in my name is more of a title than anything else. When my parents talk to me in Kannada, I respond to them in English. But when I go back to Mangalore, even if I stay there for four or five days my Kannada improves. I understand Kannada very well and can speak a bit too.
M.Com: Congratulations on being a father after 18 years of marriage. How do you feel on being a father?
Ravi Shastri: Obviously it's a great feeling. We're over the moon. We've named our daughter Aleka.
M.Com: We have a large number of cricket fans on Mangalorean.com. Your message to them.
Ravi Shastri: Cricket is a sport as well as entertainment. Watch and play this game in the right spirit. I wish all the best to Mangalorean.com.