Ravi Shastri coached Team India defeated Bangladesh in the finals of the Nidahas Trophy 2018 and became winners after a last ball six by Dinesh Karthik calmed the excited hearts in the ground and all around the world.
Shastri, who had captained a U19 side to Sri Lanka in 1980s, was interviewed by the Sunday Island. In the interview, Shastri spoke about his love for Sri Lanka and also revealed his favorite Lankan batsman.
Here are the excerpts from the interview with Shastri.
Talking about his connection with Sri Lanka, Shastri said, “Well, the first stamp on my passport was for Sri Lanka. That’s something that I will never forget as it was my first travel overseas. Had the most enjoyable time. We were here for two months and fell in love with the country. We went from north to down south in a little mini-bus. I also retired from cricket here in 1994. Then, I started television commentary here. Became the Head Coach of the Indian team here and all important events of my cricketing career have happened in this island. It brings back fond memories and I have made so many good friends.”
He further said, “I have known guys like Arjuna and Aravinda for more than 30 years now and the camaraderie still exists. That’s the beauty of the game. We played hard on the field, but at the same time we are best of friends. I was in the commentary box when Sri Lanka won the World Cup final and I was very happy for them. It is a small island and they made Test debut in 1982 and 14 years later they won the World Cup. They stunned everyone. Arjuna as a leader was outstanding. Aravinda showed the world what a world class player he is. I do not judge players with the amount of runs they have scored, but on their performances on big occasions.”
Shastri also revealed that former Sri Lanka captain Aravinda de Silva was his favorite batsman from Sri Lanka. He said, “It is a tough one but I would give it to Aravinda. I have seen lot of your players, but that man Aravinda scored runs when it seriously mattered and on big occasions. Nothing like his knocks in the World Cup semi-final and the final. The counter attack against India and then the match winning hundred against Australia. Ara is class.”
He further said, “Aravinda was that big occasion player. His counterattack on India in that semi-final when they were none for two stunned everyone. Then that hundred in the final. There have been many moments in his career when he scored runs when it mattered and when the heat was on.”
Further talking, Shastri said, “I don’t think the standards of Sri Lankan cricket has gone down. It is tough to replace quality players, but let me reiterate that there’s enough talent here. Lot of natural talent. Just that India were on a run playing good cricket last year. It doesn’t mean that Sri Lanka were playing badly. I tell you now, if another team comes here, you will beat them. You will beat South Africa, England and Australia.”
Talking about the latest series against South Africa, Shastri said, “The important thing was self belief. Even when we were 2-0 down in the Tests, we knew it was very close. We knew that with bit of luck we could turn things around. The good thing I liked was that everyday they wanted to play and compete. You see lot of sides when they are 2-0 down they want to end things as quickly as possible. That wasn’t the case with this Indian team. We take pride in our performances. We knew after Johannesburg what we have done and we took it to the ODIs. It was a young side yes, but we showed character. As a coach I feel proud.”
Speaking about the tours to Australia and England, Shastri said, “We believe in one thing and that is wherever we go, we make that home. No excuses, no complaints and just go out there and play. So don’t blame anyone if you play badly. Blame yourselves. We need to adapt and conquer rather than complaining.”
He praised Virat Kohli for his leadership, saying, “He leads by example. He is a serious competitor and takes no prisoners. He wants to compete with the best of the world and takes pride in doing so. His batting in South Africa was sensational. You would have seen the pitches in South Africa. To get 887 runs across all formats is no joke. His work ethic is second to none. I mean it. When you have a captain who sets an example like that, others, even if they want to be lazy, they wake up. They want to emulate him.”
He also paid tribute to former captain MS Dhoni and said, “I know what a king he is. He is not a champion, but a king. He plays like a king. He will go down as one of the greatest one-day crickets of the game. Forget India. We do not take notice of all the criticism. We know what he is capable of. He knows what we expect of him. He goes and does the job for us.”
Talking about his off time now Shastri said, “Feet up. Feet up. I have had enough. I applied for this job, I got the job and two days later I landed in Colombo in July. Since then, I have had maximum ten days off. We came here on the 19th of July last year and we will leave here 19th of March. In between those nine months, I may have had ten days off. If I have to go and watch a match, it will be an odd game and that would be with a glass of beer in my hand and feet up watching the game in my shorts.”