Former India fielding coach R Sridhar in his book ‘Coaching Beyond: My Days with Indian Cricket Team’ has recalled an incident when former India head coach Ravi Shastri did not like his advice and was fuming in anger at the ‘novice coach’. Sridhar further stated that Shastri’s words left him rattled and he could not sleep well that night.
The incident dates back to the 2015 World Cup in Australia when R Sridhar had just joined the Indian team setup. As revealed by the former India fielding coach, Ravi Shastri had suggested introducing a small pre-game exercise where every player would come up and speak about his game plan. The then-head coach had also sought everyone’s opinion on this.
“Ahead of the World Cup, Ravi decided that the players would speak at the team meetings. That at every meeting, the batters would speak of their game plans, how they would approach different situations, what their plans are for each bowler in the opposition. After that, all-rounders Ashwin and Jadeja would hold forth, and at the end, the fast bowlers would express their thoughts. It was a very good system, I felt, because ultimately it was the players who had to perform out in the middle,” Sridhar wrote in his book.
Sridhar further revealed that as he was asked about his opinion, he clearly stated that doing this before every game will kill its impact. Instead, this exercise can be practised before every big game. The former fielding coach then revealed that Shastri was left fuming after hearing this and called Sridhar a “novice coach”.
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“We had a similar exercise the day before the game against South Africa at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. That evening, I was at my old friend Noel Carr’s place in Melbourne for dinner when I got a call from Arun, asking for my views on this new introduction. I knew I could speak freely to Arun, so I told him, ‘It’s a great concept, but we should be careful how often we do it. It’s a golden goose, we should not kill it. If we do this before every game, its effectiveness will diminish. I feel it’s better if we have such sessions before key matches,” he added.
“I didn’t know, of course, that I was on speaker phone, that Ravi was listening in. I was fairly new to international cricket, and Ravi and I didn’t really know each other all that well. Apparently, he wasn’t very amused by what he heard. ‘Baadi,’ he thundered, referring to Arun by his nickname, ‘I told you these young coaches have no idea what I am doing. I had told you at the very beginning not to recommend such novice coaches. I was rattled. I knew there was merit in what I had told Arun, but I was unnerved by Ravi’s reaction and didn’t sleep very well that night,” he recalled.
The 52-year-old then claimed that he has a sigh of relief when Shastri praised him after India beat South Africa by 130 runs.
“The next day, we turned in a brilliant performance in the field, we out-fielded South Africa for the first time. David Miller was run out, A.B. de Villiers was run out, thanks to great efforts by the fast bowlers, and we took all our catches. Ravi turned to me in the dressing room and said, ‘Sri, great job. The way you have worked on the fielders is awesome’.
“I was mighty relieved. He had completely shed his ire of the previous night. And although he had been angry at the time, he did take my suggestion on board. Only when he felt each one had to know the others’ game plan before a big game did he have inclusive, extended meetings thereafter.”