Former India cricketer Ravi Shastri has always had a way with words. This trait has seen him work as a commentator and expert analyst for years. In his recently-released book, ‘Coaching Beyond: My Days with the Indian Cricket Team’, former India fielding coach R Sridhar recalled how during his stint as India coach, Shastri used his words to light a fire in the belly of pacer Mohammed Shami.
Sridhar recollected how Shastri got agitated after seeing fast bowler Shami’s plate filled with rice and mutton curry during the tea break in the third Test between South Africa and India in Johannesburg in 2018.
India had already gone down 0-2 in the series by the time the team reached Wanderers.
“We lost Cape Town. We couldn’t chase down 208 which was ridiculous. Then we lost Centurion, another match we should have won and where we could have been 2-0 up or at worse 1-1. We had already surrendered the series when we went to Johannesburg,” Sridhar writes.
India won the toss and elected to bat first in that game. Recalling Shami’s performance in the game, Sridhar writes: “Shami didn’t turn up in the first innings — he went for 46 runs from 12 overs, and on the fourth day, he was again reasonably inconspicuous till tea, by which time South Africa appeared on course for victory. Needing 241, they had reached 136/3 when the lads trooped in for tea break.
“Shami looked disinterested as he came back in, and as he did for lunch, he had piled up his plate with rice and mutton curry. During the first interval, Ravi lashed out at Shami after taking a glance at the bowler’s plate. ‘Bloody hell, will you satiate your hunger here itself or will you save some of it for wickets too?’”
Sridhar also mentioned Shami’s response.
“‘Haan, haan, yahan bhi kha lunga, udhar bhi kha lunga (Yes, yes, I will eat here and I will feast there too)’
“We all shared Ravi’s frustrations because this was a series that ought to have played out differently. It looked as though for all our toils, we would have nothing to show. Just before Shami left the dressing room to return for the post-tea session, Ravi took him aside and wound him up. Not by telling him he was a match-winner and stuff like that, but by reminding him of the lunchtime conversation and Shami’s promise,” added Sridhar.
The former fielding coach then recalled the stunning bowling performance by Shami in the final session. “Post-tea, he was unplayable. He blasted through the middle and lower order to finish with five for 28, and we ended up winning by a comfortable 63-run margin. As he sauntered back into the changing room, he grinned wickedly. ‘Haan, mereko aur gussa dilao aap log. Merko gaali do. Utna gussa nahi dilate jitna dilaana chahiye. (Yes, please make me angry. You people should curse me. You don’t make me as angry as you should).”
South Africa lost eight wickets for just 25 runs, courtesy of Shami’s brilliant spell