7 January 2019. A red-letter day in Indian cricket.
When one thinks of such epochal moments in recent times – think World Cup 2011, or World T20 2007, or NatWest Trophy 2002 – one voice has been a common link to all: Ravi Shastri.
The Indian coach also ties a common thread to two earlier, perhaps most-defining triumphs in the history of Indian cricket – the 1983 World Cup, and the 1985 World Championship – having been part of both those squads.
Despite being far away from the commentary box this time around, as India secured a maiden Test series win in Australia, Shastri has fired the ‘quotable quote’ of the season by calling his wards’ victory “as big, or even bigger” than any previous win.
"“World Cup ‘83, World Championship ‘85. This is as big, or even bigger, because this is in the truest format of the game.”" - Ravi Shastri, Indian Coach
In a typically fiery, at times guttural address to the media, India’s head coach was effusive in his praise for captain Virat Kohli, and his history-making outfit.
“I don’t think anyone plays Test match cricket with more passion than he does,” Shastri said about the Indian skipper.
“At least I don't see any other international captain coming close to him on the field, when it comes to show that passion that is needed to play the game ... Virat is someone in your face, and it rubs off on all the youngsters who are watching the game in India.”
"“When an individual puts his neck on the line as captain, then the others follow. You’ve seen that transition happening over the last two-three years, where the guys in the team have become more and more confident about their own ability, and the ability of the team as well.”" - Ravi Shastri, Indian Coach
Known through his stint for hitting out at any criticism of his unit, Shastri didn’t miss an opportunity to get back upon comments made by former Indian cricketers after the team lost the second Test at Perth.
Sunil Gavaskar, former captain and a long-time teammate of Shastri, had asked for Kohli and Shastri’s roles to be assessed if India failed to win the series. The 56-year-old, who had already made a rebuttal to the claims after India’s win at Melbourne, issued a firmer riposte in Sydney.
“I think I mentioned people taking pot-shots and firing blanks. I was not joking there, because I knew how hard this team had worked,” said Shastri.
"“When you fire from there (in India), by the time that blank crosses the Southern hemisphere, it’s blown away with the wind like a tracer bullet. But lead (the element), with something in it, can be pretty serious. That’s what we fired right through the series against Australia. We were committed, and it jolly well made a bloody difference at the end of it all.”" - Ravi Shastri, Indian Coach
Not done firing verbal salvos, Shastri, who drew widespread flak for calling the present team “India’s best in the last 15-20 years” during the England tour, threw another apparent barb in the direction of past units while praising the current side’s attitude.
"“This is not a team of gods or demi-gods, or seniors or juniors. This is an Indian cricket team that will jump over a cliff to win a game for the country. And that’s the determination, that’s the ruthlessness, that’s the mindset with which this team went to play this series. And hats off to them, to show that courage.”" - Ravi Shastri, Indian Coach
The Indian coach wasn’t done.
“Today, I can say that I'm proud of my boys. I can also tell them one thing which Virat touched in the presentation, that this team now has an identity to look at any other Indian team from the past, in the eye, and say, 'we play proper Test match cricket'.”
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