For many, Ravi Shastri was the man who would step down the track and then calmly defend. He would build you up and then calmly tear you down. Then, there were the chapati or jhaadu shots that he used to play. In fact, one look at the second half of his career and you wouldn’t believe that he could be a pretty exciting batsman too.
But then, we forget that before he became the object of scorn, he was also the ‘Champion of champions’.
Chances are that, those who watched it, will still remember the scenes like it happened yesterday. The 1985 World Championship of Cricket final. India vs Pakistan. An Audi being driven around with Indian players stacked on top of it. The joy. The madness.
It was reaffirmation that the historic triumph of 1983 at Lord’s was no fluke.
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It had not been a particularly high-scoring tournament. The highest total was 262 – by Pakistan against Australia in the fifth match. There was always something in the wicket for the bowlers and there were many instances of teams getting bowled out under 200.
Still, in these conditions, Shastri did an invaluable job for India. While Kris Srikkanth was the top run-getter in the tournament with 238 runs at an average of 59.50, it was Shastri who dropped anchor and made sure that India found ways to win matches.
He scored 2 and 13 in the first two games, 51 off 94 balls against Australia and then worked his way to 63 not out off 148 balls in the final against Pakistan, while at the other end Srikkanth smashed his way to 67 off just 77.
In five matches, Shastri scored 182 runs at an average 45.50. His strike-rate of 49.32 might have been more at home in Test cricket but this was Shastri realising that the team needed him to do a particular job and doing it without letting his ego distract him.
In the 1985 season, Shastri became just the second player after Garry Sobers to hit six sixes in the one over in first-class cricket. He did it in a Ranji Trophy match in which he scored a double-century in less than two hours. So, he could score quickly if he wanted to but the khadoos cricketer from Mumbai did his thing – to win the tournament, he needed to look ugly, but he was fine with that.
And when Shastri wasn’t doing his bit with the bat, he was taking wickets. His 8 wickets at an average 20.75 were vital too. His all-round ability, at this point, was second to none.
About his performance in Australia, Shastri, on his return to India, said: “I was not in the Prudential Cup-winning Indian XI, so this is some compensation. The wicket (in the final) was a little dicey. The ball had a tendency to rear up dangerously after pitching, I was just careful.”
The highlights of the final featured below mostly show glimpses of Srikkanth but there was Shastri, at the other end... out of sight, doing the job for the team.
Perhaps that is why he was adjudged the Champion of Champions.
“Till today I say, it’s not my car. That car belongs to the country, belongs to the Indian cricket team,” he said.
Here is a older interview of Ravi Shastri with Audi India, where he recalled an incident with Javed Miandad:
Here is another Ravi Shastri interview where he talks about the importance of winning that car:
And finally, if you miss Ravi Shastri, the showman: