His is a voice that most Indian cricket fans are familiar with. While he was a player, he was associated with some extremely special moments like the 1983 World Cup triumph and the 1985 World Championship victory.
Once he made the seamless transition to wielding a microphone, he was at hand to witness further glories as M.S. Dhoni’s men won the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 and the 2011 World Cup. He was there too when Sachin Tendulkar made his farewell speech at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. “The mike is all yours,” Ravi Shastri had said and set the stage for Tendulkar’s heart-felt speech.
Shastri has been around for close to two decades as a commentator.
There are those who comment on his efficiency and there are those who point out his repetitive words but there is no mistaking his energy.
Nothing like playing
So what does he prefer, playing or commentating? Ever quick to reply, Shastri said: “Nothing beats playing. You got the colours of your country on you and when you were part of an era when you won the biggest tournaments in the world, there is no substitute for that.
“Commentating comes next, it’s live, it is something you enjoy and makes you feel nostalgic at times, coming to places where you might have done well and helps you keep in touch with players, who otherwise you won’t meet and which is good.”
After playing 80 Tests and 150 ODIs, the former Indian all-rounder, who was the skipper in one victorious Test against the mighty West Indies at Chennai, shifted to commentary and Shastri felt at home. “I was asked to come to Sri Lanka to do a (1994 Singer Cup) series and after day one, I remember telling my dad: ‘This is my life.’ When I played cricket, I was the hard-working kind, but here (in commentary) I was a natural,” he said.
The decision was made and he was there to see India’s epochal moments. “The highlight would be (M.S.) Dhoni whacking (the ball) into the crowd and then what comes out. The beauty of live television is that you don’t read out something, you speak about what you see,” he recalled. What about Tendulkar’s speech? “It was fabulous and even here there was attention to detail.”
On the flipside, there is the endless travel and the jibes about his expressions like ‘tracer bullet.’ Shastri has his defence: “I am not an English Literature teacher neither have I an ‘O’ Level in the languages. I go with the flow.
“If you repeat something then people will say he is saying the same things but if I was the first one to use it, I have the rights to use it again. If a shot is played that way then you say it that way and I care a toss for what anyone says.”