Ravi Shastri, born on May 27, 1962, has been a part of Indian cricket for the greater part of the last 40 years, and over that time, the flamboyant personality has played a variety of roles.
For many who watched Indian cricket in the 1980s, Ravi Shastri was the embodiment of someone who, while lacking the skill that other Indian cricketers possessed, clawed his way to the top by pure hard work, persistent tenacity, and a burning desire to be the best version of himself.
Starting as a No.11 batsman, Shastri pushed his way to the top and established himself as the ultimate grafter against the world’s greatest bowlers. He lacked the variety of strokes that his teammates possessed, and though cricket fans criticized him for his gloomy attitude to batting, Shastri more or less got the job done for his side.
Seven of his eleven Test hundreds came away from home, in countries such as Pakistan, England, Australia, and the West Indies. He was the first Indian opener to reach 200 in England. As an opener, he averaged an astounding 44.04 points per game. He didn’t have many variations as a left-arm spinner, and he typically depended on defensive tactics, but Shastri found a way to thrive, particularly in white-ball cricket. In Test and ODI cricket, he took 151 and 129 wickets, respectively.
While he was the ultimate grafter, Ravi Shastri could tonk the ball with disdain, as he did in a Ranji Trophy game when he blasted six sixes in one over.
Shastri’s defining moment in his playing career occurred in 1985, when he was given the prized Audi Trophy for his all-round performance in helping India win the World Championship of cricket in Australia.
While establishing himself as a defensive player, Ravi Shastri was a flamboyant character who, like his post-playing days, was never afraid to speak his mind. The fact that he was tall and attractive contributed to his flashy image.
Shastri’s bleak batting attitude in ODI cricket in the latter end of his career did not earn him many supporters, and his career was finally cut short due to back problems.
Following his playing days, Ravi Shastri carved himself a career in the commentary box, and for the greater part of the following 25 years, he was the unmistakable presence in practically every momentous occasion in Indian cricket.
1⃣9⃣8⃣3⃣ World Cup-winner 🏆
2⃣3⃣0⃣ intl. games 👌
6⃣9⃣3⃣8⃣ intl. runs & 2⃣8⃣0⃣ intl. wickets 👍
— BCCI (@BCCI) May 27, 2021
Despite all of the clichés he employed, most notably “tracer bullet,” his energetic and impassioned voice became synonymous with Indian cricket, and though he was frequently chastised for toeing the BCCI’s line of thinking, he never caved in to the critics.
Shastri has previously served in three different capacities for the Indian squad. After a disastrous 50-over World Cup campaign, he was named as Team India’s manager in 2007. Then, in 2014, he was appointed as the Indian team’s director following their devastating 1-3 defeat in the Test series against England. The former all-rounder was then formally restored as India’s head coach in 2017, after Anil Kumble resigned when his relationship with Virat Kohli became unsustainable.
Fans ridiculed and attacked Shastri, believing that the only reason he was given the coaching post was because he was Virat Kohli’s “yes man.” His unwillingness to hire Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan as batting and bowling instructors drew even more criticism, and things reached a boiling point when India failed to win Test series in South Africa and England due to selection mistakes, before bowing out of the 2019 World Cup after a semi-final loss to New Zealand.
Ravi Shastri came under fire for not just omitting Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane during visits to South Africa and England, but also for failing to find an ODI No.4 batsman in the run-up to the World Cup. The fact that he made some absurd remarks in the media added fuel to the fire, resulting in his being heavily mocked for his drinking habits every time India lost a game.
However, Shastri took everything in stride, and though the 2018-19 Test series in Australia will go down as one of his greatest triumphs, he achieved the pinnacle of his coaching career when he led an injury-ravaged Indian squad to a historic victory in Australia last winter.
After India were shot the for their lowest total in Test history at the Adelaide Oval, Shastri’s admonition to his squad, “Wear 36 all-out as a badge of honor,” proved to be the defining moment of the series. His man-management abilities were crucial in a beleaguered Team India writing history in Australia against all odds.
Shastri, in his own words, “flipped his reputation among his detractors like a tracer-bullet,” and his place in Indian cricket mythology was cemented.
Wishing you a very Happy Birthday Ravi Bhai!!
Best wishes to you on this day, praying for your good health, wealth & happiness!!
— Ishant Sharma (@ImIshant) May 27, 2021
Happy Birthday, Ravi Bhai. May you keep uplifting our spirits both on and off the field. Wish you the best of years ahead. pic.twitter.com/9IfUUuWL3s
— Ajinkya Rahane (@ajinkyarahane88) May 27, 2021
— Rishabh Pant (@RishabhPant17) May 27, 2021
— Peter Lalor (@plalor) May 27, 2021