A Debut & a Stellar Show: Deja Vu for Shastri at Basin Reserve?

It was a dream Test debut for New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson on Friday, 21 February, at Basin Reserve, Wellington, as India ended the day at 122/5, with the lanky fast bowler chipping in with three of those wickets, including that of India skipper Virat Kohli, and Cheteshwar Pujara.

As luck would have it, Jamieson wasn’t even expected to play the Test had Neil Wagner been  fit and ready to pair with Trent Boult up front.

For India head coach Ravi Shastri, watching the developments from the stands, it may have invoked a bitter-sweet memory from the past – his international debut at the venue 39 years ago. What Wagner proved to be for Jamieson, Dilip Doshi had been for Shastri back in that Test in 1981.

It was in the tour of Australia that Doshi had sustained an injury and thus, Shastri was roped in as a late replacement for the New Zealand tie. A like-for-like replacement, Shastri was expected to don Doshi’s role.

Shastri dismissed Jeremy Coney for his first international wicket – caught and bowled – before picking another five wickets in the Test. His second innings figures read: 3-0-9-3.

Although those three wickets were of New Zealand’s No 9, 10 and 11, History books still go on to state that a slow left-arm bowler made his debut on conditions favouring fast bowlers and went home with six Kiwi wickets.

Also Read: If We Had to Share No 1 Spot With Any Team, It Will Be NZ: Kohli

With the bat, Shastri had scored 3 and 19 walking in to bat at No 10. By the time he walked out one last time for India in Tests, Shastri was an accomplished opener.

India beat Pakistan in the final of the Benson and Hedges World Championship of Cricket with Ravi Shastri scoring an unbeaten 63 as an opener.

And that’s quite how drastic and varied Shastri’s role has been for India over the years. From being just part of ‘Kapil’s Devils’ in the 1983 World Cup winning campaign to the hero of the Benson and Hedges Cup in 1985, it didn’t take much time for Shastri to hog limelight in the international circuit.

Although he had contributed just one wicket rolling his arms, he made up for it with an unbeaten 63 as India beat Pakistan in the final of the Benson and Hedges Cup.

Adjudged player of the series for his 182 runs and eight wickets in five matches, he was also gifted an Audi. The glamour quotient that he carries till date perhaps began in Melbourne on that eventful night.

And yet, that was just one of the factors that drew criticism from a section of the cricketing fraternity. The others? A slow batter, is in the side because Sunil Gavaskar is the captain, puts himself ahead of the team etc. Did it change his stature or aura? Hard to say. Has that perception changed over the years? Again, hard to say.

He still has a faction of fans who hail his position as Team India’s head coach while there’s another who, if given a free hand, would change that designation at their own disposal.

Ravi Shastri had featured in 80 Tests and 150 ODIs for India.

Quite like his off-field criticism, his on-field form had also been pretty consistent. He produced moments of magic but was also consistently inconsistent at times. And yet, he did enough to play 80 Tests for India and another 150 ODIs.

Indians, and especially Mumbaikars, however, have a more special memory of the ‘khadoos’ cricketer – the six sixes he hit in an over of a Ranji Trophy match.

Although Garry Sobers was the first cricketer to smash that feat in 1968 for Nottinghamshire in an English County game, to the cricket-fanatic crowd back home, Shastri had done what many had never heard of, let alone witness.

Coincidentally, an injury had paved the path for Shastri to break into the national team, and it was a recurring knee problem that saw his career being cut short at the age of 31.

Ever since, from being a television pundit to a commentator to donning the hat of a technical director, Shastri has come back to the Indian team’s fold on more than just one occasion.

Now, being a coach is perhaps just one of the final acts given he is already 57 and as per the recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators, a person can stay at the helm of affairs only until 60.

And while India have enjoyed quite a few highs with Shastri as the head coach, they are yet to win an ICC tournament under his tutelage. They can have a go at changing that later this year though, when Virat Kohli & Co enter the T20 World Cup slated in Australia as one of the tournament favourites.

But in close proximity, both in terms of distance and time, Shastri would want India to continue their winning form in the ICC World Test Championship in the ongoing series against New Zealand.

“It was 39 years. They say what goes around comes around. Tomorrow, Same day same ground same team same city I made my Test match debut 39 years ago. Unreal,” is what Shastri had tweeted a day before the first Test got underway at Basin Reserve.

And while the occasion has definitely prompted him to take a walk down memory lane, he surely doesn’t want the luck to come around for either Jamieson or New Zealand – victors of his debut Test at Basin Reserve.

Also Read: World Test Championship Pinnacle of All ICC Tournaments: Kohli

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