Shastri gets in with the right crowd. Through successive tenures of BCCI Presidents – from Jagmohan Dalmiya to Sharad Pawar, Shashank Manohar and now, Srinivasan- Shastri has somehow managed to remain on the right side of the line. One way of looking at it is that he knows he limits and how to stay within them. The other way of looking at it, is that this man will do whatever it takes to stay with the faction in power…
On 20 July this year, Ravi Shastri had a conversation with ICC Chairman N Srinivasan during tea time of the Lord’s Test. It was an interview done on live television and even though no one was expecting any big revelations, the farce that ensued showed that Shastri knew which side of his bread needed to be buttered.
Here’s a gist of the conversation – along with our interpretations – that took place between the two:
Srinivasan: Most important thing now is to ensure that cricket is competitive. (the India-England series only went one way after this comment and competitive isn’t the word that comes to mind)
Srinivasan: As it is structured now, the associate members will get substantially more than they were getting earlier. (But nothing close to what Indiawill be getting)
Srinivasan: I think the total interest in cricket has increased but in some countries people are not coming to the stadiums. We have to change… (Read some as ‘India’)
Srinivasan: As far as India is concerned the onus will be on Test cricket and also ODI cricket. (Onus of making money would be more accurate given the BCCI’s priorities)
Srinivasan: Cricket has it’s own audience… The future augurs well for Test cricket… (No explanation needed)
Shastri to Srinivasan: You have been a sportsman. You like golf, cricket… (Ahem)
Srinivasan (on where the game at the end of his tenure as BCCI president): I think the game goes on. It doesn’t depend on any one individual. We all help it along. (It was all me…)
And finally. Shastri to Srini: “Thank you for sharing your valuable thoughts.”
There was nothing about spot-fixing, the case in the Supreme Court or the other problems that plague cricket. Shastri asked questions with all the fake gusto he could muster, Srinivasan replied with his usual calm manner and it all looked very carefully orchestrated. Just as well, before the interview took place, Shastri was spotted in the stands, sitting just behind Srinivasan, having an intense conversation with Dave Richardson. Now he is the director of cricket affairs, charged with finding out what went wrong with Indian cricket. It is clear that Srinivasan (yes, he is most probably still pulling the strings) trusts him but if he questions Dhoni (a man Srinivasan needs) in the same vein then nothing can save India.
The Times of India mentions that Ravi Shastri held a meeting with Fletcher, Dhoni and IPL CEO Sundar Raman. Why was Raman there? What business did he have being part of that meeting except perhaps that he is the man who helped convince England and Australia that the ICC’s new structure is good for everyone. This is the same structure that placed Srinivasan at the top. Shastri gets in with the right crowd. Through successive tenures of BCCI Presidents – from Jagmohan Dalmiya to Sharad Pawar, Shashank Manohar and now, Srinivasan- Shastri has somehow managed to remain on the right side of the line. One way of looking at it is that he knows he limits and how to stay within them. The other way of looking at it, is that this man will do whatever it takes to stay with the faction in power.
It’s also interesting how people like to talk about Ravi Shastri’s passion for the game without actually looking at what he has accomplished in administrative positions. As NCA chairman, he almost never found time to attend or even convene meetings. He attended one meeting in his time in charge and NCA officials had trouble even getting through to him on phone. He had commitments which were far too important for him to pay any attention to the NCA. He was eventually replaced by Anil Kumble.
Before that he was part of IPL governing council that allowed Lalit Modi to run unchecked and then also allowed the scheduling to be so bad that India reached the 2010 T20 World Cup in West Indies just three days ahead of the tournament – three days in which they had to acclimatise and get ready for the tournament. This when all the other teams had arrived at least a fortnight before the event. Why are we mentioning this here? Because Shastri was part of the Governing Council and his remit was cricketing matters. Yet, they had no problem with a schedule that basically ruinedIndia’s chances at that tournament.
There also was the case of Shastri defending the BCCI during the Dilip Sardesai lecture last year. “No matter how much you want to criticise, you have to remember, if they had not given you that first stepping stone, you would not have become the cricketer you went on to be,” he had said. That surely is a message that everyone on the Indian cricket team would love to hear. So just for the record, don’t criticise anyone or anything and you will survive.
We have seen Gary Kirsten being asked to shut up and in his early days, the same treatment was meted out to Duncan Fletcher. But has Shastri ever been asked to do the same? No he hasn’t and the reason for that is that he almost always seems to toe the BCCI’s line. He was on their commentary panel (and paid Rs 3.6 crore annually) and was also included in the panel suggested by the BCCI to the Supreme Court to probe into the IPL corruption scandal.
There is talk that the BCCI first approached Rahul Dravid to become Director of Cricket Affairs but he couldn’t take over because of other commitments. However, it is hard to see any player open up to Shastri in a one-on-one. Especially when they know that everything they say may be used against them in the future. In an interview to Sky Sports after the appointment, Shastri said: “Duncan still commands a lot of respect in the dressing room. He’s been around for a long time. He will remain as the head coach. I don’t think there is any need to panic. These are tried and trusted people.”
However, his statement is in complete contrast with BCCI officials mouthing off against Fletcher with rare glee. It shows that the Board has already found a scapegoat. Shastri is just there to rubber stamp their decision and for the moment, give it the magic media spin. Another reason for the players to not say a thing and just do their thing.
There is no reason why the BCCI must turn to him each time in their hour of need. If they do, it only assures us of their trust in him; trust which in turn makes us distrust him. Change is necessary but there is no reason why Shastri needs to be at the head of it each and every time.
India Could Benefit From Ravi Shastri’s Emotional Intensity
At first glance, Ravi Shastri’s appointment seems to be a damage-limitation exercise for which the Board has appointed a well known loyalist. Yet Shastri could actually have a positive impact on the team’s mental morale…
In a recent column in the Times of India, Ravi Shastri wondered how India’s cricketers would respond to the thrashing handed to them byEngland.Shastri now gets to do more. The BCCI has put him in-charge of all cricketing affairs for the ODI leg of India’s tour.
It is now Shastri’s job to “re-energise the team”, as the BCCI statement put it. At first glance, it seems to be a damage-limitation exercise for which the board has appointed a well known loyalist. Yet Shastri could actually have a positive impact on the team’s mental morale. Shastri learned his cricket on the maidans of Mumbai, where little is given and every run and every wicket had to be earned. He was never the most talented of cricketers, but he was always a supremely determined one. He transformed himself from a No. 10 batsmen into an opener because of his sheer bloody-mindedness.
Neither MS Dhoni nor Fletcher are expressive characters. Neither seems to be capable of lighting a fire under a reeling side. Dhoni, certainly, prefers to lead by example rather than rouse his team with some well-chosen verbal fireworks. Sometimes though, what a team needs is a rollicking, emotional, fired-up speech like the one Al Pacino gives in ‘Any Given Sunday’, a movie about a flawed American Football team. Shastri, who can be relied upon to drive up the emotional intensity on air as a commentator, seems particularly suited to that task.