‘Man-management is Shastri’s forte’

‘He builds confidence in players. He has the knack of motivating people.’
‘A few good words from Ravi and that player will be an altogether different player in minutes.’

Confident, a skilled motivator and a man-manager par excellence define Ravi Shastri, according to a team-mate from days of the sepia tone.

Bharat Nadkarni remembers Shastri as a young gun with a sharp cricketing brain. Bharat and Ravi were in Bombay’s Ranji team in the late 1970s.

Nadkarni, who also worked with Shastri at Tata Power, recalls how Ravi, who was always up for a challenge, narrowly lost one to him.

“I’m about 8 years senior to Ravi Shastri. When I played Ranji, he was in Podar college (a well-known commerce college in Matunga, north central Mumbai), with a promising career, one of the best in Mumbai,” Bharat recalls in a conversation with Norma Astrid Godinho/Rediff.com.

“I got acquainted with him while playing together at Karnataka Sporting Association (a South Mumbai-based sports club). He always had a shrewd cricketing brain. He was a young gun then and even when he was in college, he was brimming with talent and we knew that he would someday represent India.”

“In around 1977-1978, while I was doing my MBA from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management, we were playing a local two-day tournament. I wasn’t sure of playing because my exams were on the same day, but I was included in the team anyway,” Bharat remembers.

“A young Ravi scored 115 runs, gunning for the top prize for most runs in that tournament. It was almost sure that he would bag it. I completed my exam on Saturday, played the final on Sunday and scored two runs more than Ravi, putting paid to his hopes of an award for batting.”

“That was the only time he was denied an award. Even today when we meet, he tells me ‘aapne mera woh batting prize khaya tha,” Bharat adds.

“Ravi is one of the geniuses of cricket. He reads the game well,” asserts Bharat, presenting anecdotal evidence.

“This was at the fag end of Ravi’s career… he was captaining Tata’s in the Times Shield tournament (one of Mumbai’s premier cricket tournaments) at Hindu Gymkhana (the P J Hindu Gymkhana in south Mumbai). We were playing a game against one of the strongest teams then — Bharat Petroleum. Tata’s had made 240 which wasn’t a big score,” Bharat remembers.

“The opposition were batting flawlessly and one duo put on a massive partnership. At 170 for 1, they looked like they would cruise to a win. We were unable to get a breakthrough. But Ravi didn’t give up hope. He kept telling (leg-spinner) Sairaj Bahutule, who was a budding cricketer then, ‘You just give me one wicket, I’ll then run through the side’.”

“Sairaj got the breakthrough eventually and once the new batter came into bat, Ravi took the ball. He kept his word and picked the remaining eight wickets. We were in a losing position, but Ravi was confident and it was that confidence that saw us clinch that match by 15-20 runs.”

“My observation of Ravi is that as team director or head coach he was best at man-management,” says Bharat, adding, “That is his forte.”

“He is a motivator. In cricket we need someone to give us confidence before we reach the arena. That confidence is good enough to take the burden on your shoulders when you’re out in the middle. Ravi has that ability,” Bharat explains.

“He builds confidence in players. He has the knack of motivating people. A few good words from Ravi and that player will be an altogether different player in minutes.”

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