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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Jasprit Bumrah becomes first Indian pacer to be ranked No. 1 in ICC Test rankings

Ravi Shastri appreciates Kohli’s passion for Test cricket, his readiness for challenges, and the willingness to play tough cricket

Our Bureau, PTI Calcutta/New Delhi Published 11.02.24, 06:43 AM
India head coach Ravi Shastri (left) keeps a close watch on Jasprit Bumrah during nets at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 23, 2020.

India head coach Ravi Shastri (left) keeps a close watch on Jasprit Bumrah during nets at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 23, 2020. Getty Images

Former India head coach Ravi Shastri always knew that Jasprit Bumrah was “desperate and hungry” to play Test cricket as the pace sensation did not like being stereotyped as a “white-ball specialist”.

Bumrah is the first Indian pacer to be ranked No. 1 in the ICC Test rankings.

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The 30-year-old’s prowess was on full display as he claimed a remarkable match haul of 9/91, playing a pivotal role in India’s series-levelling victory in the Visakhapatnam Test.

In an interview to former England skipper Michael Atherton in The Times, London, Shastri remembered his conversation with Bumrah where the pacer had told him playing Test would be the “biggest day” of his life.

“I remember my first call to him, it was in Kolkata. I asked him would he be interested in Test cricket. He said that would be the biggest day of his life,” Shastri recalled.

“He was labelled as a white-ball cricketer without asking him. But I knew. I wanted to see how hungry he was. I told him to get ready, be prepared. I told him I was going to unleash him in South Africa.”

Bumrah went on to make his Test debut against South Africa in Cape Town in January 2018.

“He’s so excited to be playing and doing well in Test cricket,” said Shastri who debunked the notion of Bumrah being solely a white-ball specialist for his exploits with the Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

“He was desperate to play Test cricket with Virat Kohli. They know, at the end of the day, no one remembers white ball averages. They will always remember your numbers in Test cricket.”

Reflecting on the criticism, Shastri stressed the significance of Test cricket and the enduring legacy it creates.

An uncut diamond

Shastri, who assumed the role of national team director in 2014 and later became the head coach, further reflected on his tenure, emphasising the shift in focus from individual brilliance to team brilliance.

Identifying Virat Kohli as an “uncut diamond,” Shastri said he saw his potential as a captain early on.

“There was a lot of individual brilliance but I wanted to see team brilliance. I wanted to win and to make Test cricket paramount and identified an uncut diamond in Virat Kohli.

“While (MS) Dhoni was my captain, my eye was on him (Kohli). I told him very early in my second month: ‘It’ll take time but watch, observe, be ready (for the captaincy)’.”

Shastri appreciated Kohli’s passion for Test cricket, his readiness for challenges, and the willingness to play tough cricket.

“Kohli was fully engaged with Test cricket. He was passionate. He was prepared to do the hard yards and was prepared to play tough cricket, which fitted my way of thinking. When you play Australia or Pakistan you’ve got to have a ‘no complaints’, ‘no excuses’ attitude.”

He was always on the same page with the Kohli on creating a potent pace force. The rest was history as India won back-to-back Test series in Australia and drew a Test series in England.

“We were on the same page and wanted a battery of fast bowlers. He was ready for a scrap. He wanted to play hard. We made it a free-for-all in the nets.

“You were allowed to bounce the shit out of anyone. He was the first guy to embrace it; he was quite prepared to look ugly in the nets and the mindset changed.”

Addressing concerns about India’s 40 per cent share of ICC revenues, Shastri suggested a nuanced approach.

While acknowledging India’s economic contribution to the game, he proposes utilising a portion of the funds to assist countries in need.

“From the 40 per cent they can make use of a certain amount to help certain countries that need it. I’ve not had those conversations, but that’s what I would keep in mind...”

Shastri firmly believes that T20 should serve as the “vehicle” for the game’s expansion into new territories.

“T20 is following the football model. It will happen. It’s inevitable, so be ready for it,” he says.

“That money will help Test cricket to survive but it can only survive if it is Test cricket, so you need the strongest teams playing against each other and the best players to be available. It has to be best versus best, otherwise it’s not Test cricket,” he said.

Shastri also recalled how victories in the World Cup in 1983 and the World Championship of Cricket in Australia changed the script.

“Our win in England was termed a fluke by some, but then we went to the World Championship in Australia afterwards and that was the first time an Indian audience had seen cricket under lights,” Shastri recalled.

“Every team playing; all the top players, and India played Pakistan, which hadn’t happened in 1983 in England. We beat them in the final under lights, a full house in Melbourne (March 1985). That went live in India in prime time.

“Winning in 1983 under Kapil (Dev); winning in 1985 under Sunny (Gavaskar), people started taking us seriously after that and the money, sponsors and advertising started rolling in. I remember I won a car in that series and I was allowed to take it back into the country duty free.”

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