November 14, 1991, JNS, Delhi: South Africa's third one-dayer on return to international cricket. India are 2-0 ahead.
Keith and I have just stormed the stadium along with hundreds of revolutionaries chanting, "Hai, hai Shastri, Shastri hai, hai!" India bat first, Shastri's century (109/149) is greeted with more "Hai, hai Shastri, Shastri hai, hai" - the equivalent of “Sachin! Sachin!” of the 2000s?
What happened next zapped us: Another Mumbai slowpoke, Manjrekar, scored a century – off 82 balls. There were boundaries, eight of them, even two sixes.
Surely this cannot augur well for India's chances. South Africa won with overs to spare.
"When you went through a bad patch, the crowd would get on your back. I would stick two fingers up at them. Then it spread from one state to another. It just inspired me to get more runs but it wasn't easy.”- Ravi Shastri (via The Wisden Cricketer)
February 22, 2015, MCG, Melbourne: The trolls will greet another Mumbai player, even before he walks out in the middle.
Rohit Sharma has played 11 times to Shastri's six against South Africa. Unlike Shastri, Sharma has had a rough one against the Proteas – averaging barely 20, striking at 64. Remember how he left the ball over after over against Steyn?
Unlike Tests, leaving the ball is Sharma's forte in ODIs – by the fifth over he wakes up a tad, just to manage a half pout. Key for Sharma is to inculcate what his Bombay senior did well to score one century too many – don't throw it away early. Opening with Dhawan, Sharma's role is to be there till the Batting Power Play. He is an opener in the classic ODI mode – build, build, build, then berserk. Timing of the power play too should revolve around Sharma.
From the Benson & Hedges World Championship, 1985, the only player who is a part of this current Indian team is Ravi Shastri.
Shastri knows a thing or two about winning in Australia.
March 29, 1985, MCG, Melbourne. Shastri lifts an Audi and the Champion of Champions to go with it. Three half centuries, one each in the semis and finals, add to that eight wickets, and everyone in India knew about this German car manufacturer. What, we even gave, "Hai, hai Shastri" a rest for a day.
Shastri loves Sharma like his own son. Or like Gavaskar's son. He has backed him through Sharma and Nohit. He's prompted him on air during interviews. He has spoken the words, talent, potential and out of here in conjunction with Rohit more often than all the trolls on twitter.
It's not been easy for him. There are times he must have wanted to jump out of commentary and shake Rohit up with a stern, “YOU ARE NOT DOING JUSTICE TO YOUR TALENT, YOUNG MAN”. In his mind, it's always been, “I will do justice to Rohit Sharma's talent”.
Perhaps director of Rohit's cricket would've been a more appropriate designation.
Shastri didn't have Sharma's talent, Sharma never had Shastri's determination. What he does have though is a father figure – who played 80 Tests (70 more than him) and 150 ODIs (22 more than him).
Excerpts from Shastri's pep talks to Rohit:
“If a talentless guy like me can play 80 Tests. 80 TESTS, Boss! Someone with your talent should at least play 150, Yeah, I mean it. 150 TESTS!”
“I became champion of champions in 1985 in Melbourne... Make no mistake, 30 years later the time has come for you to be crowned champion of champions in the same city... in Melbourne.”
“From Mumbai to Melbourne.”
Shastri's international career lasted 11 years, by 30 he was done. Sharma is nearly 28, has already been on the scene for nearly eight years. As Shastri would say, it's now or never. In reply, a full blown pout from Rohit Sharma would be most becoming.