Former Indian men’s cricket team chief coach Ravi Shastri has said that when he took over the job of guiding the national side, he knew he had to have a “thick skin, thicker than the leather of the Duke balls” in order to counter “jealously” and a “gang of people willing you to fail”.
Ravi Shastri announced his decision to step down at Team India head coach before the commencement of the ICC T20 World Cup 2021, saying that after giving seven years to the side — initially as team director from 2014 until 2016, and later as head coach from 2017 until 2021 — it was time to move on.
Speaking about his long stint with the India team, mostly with Virat Kohli at the helm of affairs of the side, Shastri said in an interview with The Guardian that it was tough to take up the assignment without having the coaching badges and with all the “jealousy” around.
“And I didn’t have coaching badges (either). Level one? Level two? F*** that. And in a country like India, there is always jealousy or a gang of people willing you to fail. I had a thick skin, thicker than the leather of the Dukes ball you use. A real solid hide.
The 59-year-old revealed an anecdote when he was commentating at The Oval during India’s tour of England in 2014, and he was asked by the BCCI to take over as team director the next day. The flamboyant former cricketer said he didn’t see it coming.
“I had no warning. I was commentating at the Oval during India’s (2014) tour of England and came off air to find six or seven missed calls. ‘Seven bloody calls? What’s happened here?’ (The BCCI) just said: ‘We want you to take over, starting tomorrow, at any cost.’ I told them I’d have to speak to my family and commercial partners but they just said they would sort all that out. And like that I was straight in from the commentary box. You’ll see when I joined the setup (during the ODIs), I was still in jeans and loafers. Instantly my job changed,” Ravi Shastri said.
The former all-rounder revealed how he drove a tough bargain with the Indian board, saying that he didn’t want any leaders or bullies in the side before he took charge.
“I was very firm when it came to team culture: all the prima donnas and all that shit… that had to go out of the window early. When I was the director of the team, it was about diagnosing problems: I was asked to hire and fire, whoever I wanted I could get in and whoever I didn’t could be shown the door. And it was also outlining how we want to play: to be aggressive and ruthless, to up the fitness levels, to get a group of fast bowlers to take 20 wickets overseas. And it was about attitude, especially when playing the Aussies. I told the boys if one single ‘f*** you’ comes your way, give them three back: two in our language and one in theirs.”
(Inputs from IANS)