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Ravi Shastri strikes the right chords
by Partab Ramchand
Apr 16, 2007
Ravi Shastri has certainly struck the right chords. Soon after being appointed as the cricket manager for the tour of Bangladesh the former Indian captain spelt out his approach in a nutshell. "My endeavour is to see a happy Indian team," he said.

There is no doubting Shastri’s cricketing acumen. Knowledgeable, shrewd and percipient he was always cerebral in his thinking and planning during his playing days. And over the last few months it could clearly be seen that under Greg Chappell the Indians were not a happy lot. It showed in the body language and Shastri was quick to spot it. As he himself said shortly after his appointment "Watching India playing in the last three to four months gave me the impression that they were doing a nine-to-five desk job. They had the huge weight of high expectations on their shoulders. What I want to tell them is that this is sport and they should go out there and enjoy it."

That’s exactly what the team members should be doing and I am sure under Shastri they will find the atmosphere in and around the dressing room more friendly and conducive to giving off their best. If anything they can take a leaf from the new cricket manager’s book. "I love challenges. So when I was asked whether I would put my hand up, I said yes. I never want to shy away from a challenge if I can help."

As a player Shastri never shirked challenges, offering to open against some of the fastest bowlers and running up an admirable record with batting that was marked by patience and perseverance, a skilled technique and a calm temperament. One is sure that he will bring to his new job the same sense of dedication, commitment and concentration.

Wasim Akram for one has welcomed the choice of Shastri and said he should be more actively involved. ``Ravi is a players’ man, likeable and knows what to do with the players,’’ the former Pakistan captain has said. His long stint with the media and his excellent public relations will be an obvious advantage as Shastri, 45 next month gets ready for a short term assignment which could stretch to a longer period. Shastri himself would probably be interested in a long term assignment but his media commitments stand in the way. But if the results of the Bangladesh tour are positive there will be a clamour for Shastri to have a bigger and more durable role. After all the former pin up boy of Indian cricket is today a respected name for his balanced views on various subjects and his uncanny ability to stay away from controversy.

The two other appointments, a bowling coach and a fielding coach are to be welcomed. This is an era of specialization and so several teams have a batting coach, bowling coach and fielding coach. Since it is assumed that Shastri will take care of the batting needs, the Indians have named a bowling coach with the job going to former Indian medium pacer Venkatesh Prasad who is eminently qualified. The 37-year-old Prasad completed his Level III coaching programme at the National Cricket Academy and with the ECB in England after which he made his interest in the job quite palpable. The tall and affable Prasad has made it clear that only a bowling coach can bring a turnaround in a bowler’s technique or temperament. ``You cannot mess around with technique at the highest level. But if a bowler is going through a prolonged bad patch, has recurring injuries or is unable to bowl at the right areas then definitely a bowling coach can help with the technique, the action and other related areas’’ he said in a recent interview. He has had a stint as coach of the Karnataka state team and is ready for his new responsibilities.

As far as the fielding coach is concerned it is a post that should have been created for the Indian team a long time ago. Fielding has traditionally been Indian cricket’s weakest link. However strong the batting and however purposeful the bowling the side’s challenge could come a cropper if the ground fielding is ragged or if catches are dropped by the dozen. That has quite often been the sad tale behind the failures of Indian sides. Taking a leaf from other teams, a fielding coach should have been appointed years ago. It took a World Cup debacle of mega proportions for the BCCI to wake up and appoint one and they could not have made a more inspired choice than Robin Singh. For one thing he has been one of the outstanding Indian fielders of all time. He was a joy to watch as he prowled about in the field, making athletic stops, bringing off astounding catches and effecting brilliant run outs from virtually anywhere. The 43-year-old Robin is the right man to goad a new generation of players to lift their fielding standards. Moreover he is a qualified coach with stints with the India A team and several foreign assignments and is known for his commitment.

 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
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