On day one of Adobe’s Digital Crest conference, Ravi Shastri, the head coach of the Indian cricket team, was in conversation with Adobe’s MD, Nitin Singhal. Among the wide array of topics discussed were learnings from Shastri’s cricket career, especially the ones that can be imbibed by those in the corporate sector.
Shastri stated four learnings that can help people from all walks of life.
1. Believe in your ability
“You must have tremendous belief in your ability; don't do things for the sake of it. When you have that mindset, nothing is impossible. I tell my players don't give up. Giving up is permanent. Feeling defeated is temporary,” he said.
2. Failing in life
Shastri believes it’s important to learn how to fail in life and sport. “Only then you can rise and kick some butt on the way. If you're scared of failure, you'll be insecure. You are bound to fail. Don't think about what people will think. Get out there, shake it and move on,” he said.
3. Work ethics
“The character building, punctuality, etc helps your work ethic,” Shastri believes. “It irritates me when people are two minutes late. The first time I went to Bangladesh as a coach, the boys knew what was coming. We gave only one minute grace. It was one past nine, and the driver was told to leave. The team bus once left when he was two minutes late. And till today that's the rule. Now, the boys respect that and want to be punctual.”
4. Work hard
“There is no shortcut to success. You have to put in the whole nine yards to get the distance, and in turn, be successful,” he said.
Tackling social media
With most athletes having a large social media presence, a bad performance is usually followed by a barrage of messages across platforms. Singhal asked Shastri what his advice for his players is to help them stay focussed.
“I keep saying people think too far away. Focus on the now and the moment. I tell them that the future will always be a mystery. The past is history. The present is a present from God and enjoy it. Cut the crap and the noise around it. Public memory is very short. You focus on the moment and how you can prepare the best at this point. Use technology to get in-depth knowledge of your opposition to put you in the best position to deliver,” said Shastri on the topic.
The duo also discussed how the ODI World Cup win in 1983 was a game-changing moment in Indian sport.
Shastri recalls, “The whole perception of Indian cricket changed after that. I recently got a sheet of paper as a forwarded message on WhatsApp. It consisted of the daily allowances of the 1983 Indian team that toured England. It was Rs 600 per day. 1983 redefined the way cricket was looked at in the country and in the way the money came in. The corporate sector looked at it differently, too. We got world recognition after that. We got confidence within the team too. The 1983 World Cup win and the 1985 World Series win helped this generation. It set up the IP and the big bucks that followed,” said Shastri.
No chat with the former Indian cricket team captain is complete without a mention of Audi. Shastri won an Audi as the Player of the Tournament at the 1985 World Series.
Talking about the moment and the car, Shastri said, “The win changed my career for sure. We were a great side. A stronger side than the 1983 World Cup-winning team. The fielding was sharper as the team was a mix of youth and experience. We had to show the world that 1983 wasn't a fluke. We won the tournament and the biggest satisfaction was beating Pakistan in the final. Coloured television had just started and it was the first televised night game broadcast in India. The team got into the car and we went on a round around the ground. It was all spontaneous. 35 years later, I still drive an Audi. I was sitting in Hamburg with a pint of beer, and a person walking past saw me and spoke about the car. The recall factor of that game was unbelievable.”
Shastri added that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi met him when he was back and told him that the Government had waived off all the duties for the car to be brought to India.
Between the stint of being India’s head coach and his playing career, Shastri spent 23 years in the broadcast space. He has been on commentary during iconic moments such as when India lifted the 2011 World Cup and when Yuvraj Singh hit six sixes in the 2007 T20 World Cup.
Speaking about how he’s at the right place at the right moment, he said, “A lot of people ask me if I do something to be there. But broadcasters follow a roster. I was there for the final in 1996 too. 2011 takes the cake. You could see the tension in the ground. It was a moment you had to be there to know what it felt like. When MS (Dhoni) walked out, India was still far away from victory. I've never seen a Mumbai crowd like that. There was tension. There was an eerie feeling. As we got closer, people started to breathe again freely. I was on the mic for the last half an hour. You could see the party ready to happen. And then the shot that he played was incredible.”
Shastri also credits the 23-year broadcast stint as one that has helped him during his coaching career.
“While being in the broadcast space I have been around the globe. I have been to all countries to cover the sport. And on the way, I’ve understood man-management. In team sports, culture is the most important. No two individuals are the same. You need to understand your staff, support staff and their mindset. That will allow you to deal with the person. Some can be given a hammering in public. Some need one-to-one chats. It's about knowing and understanding human behaviour,” he said.
He added about the importance of empathy, more so after the outbreak of the pandemic and explained how he used that to get India across the line in the recent tour of Australia.
“Beating Australia was unreal. Those were tough times. I had decided early when we were in lockdown last year that the way forward was empathy. The guys had zero training outdoors. No match practice. No outdoor facility training before the IPL. We had to empathise with the guys. It's only natural. The Australians were exposed to outdoor facilities way before we were. When the first ODI hammering happened, I expected it. We lost the second ODI too, but we were getting better and closer. The fact that you were playing below par, but still having moments you could win, it could tell you something. I knew one win would change things and put the pressure back on the Australians. We won the last ODI and then went on to win the T20 and Test series,” he said.
Adding about how quarantining was difficult, he said, “It was easy to be demoralised. We were in hard quarantine for 14 days. We were served food in cardboard boxes that were left outside the room. We had different rules in different cities. By the time we reached Brisbane, there was no housekeeping and room service. We had decided on day one, we will be bullheaded. We knew there would be obstructions and we wouldn't allow them to affect us. We wanted to get harder and tougher in the mind. When the last match happened, we had a lack of players because of injuries. But we had the belief. We had not given an inch. We went to the final day of the Test series with a target of 328 to win it. I told them it's the last day of the tour and they have nothing to lose. See where you've come from - the lockdown etc. I told them to be smart and fearless. What Rishabh (Pant), Shubman (Gill) and Puji (Cheteshwar Pujari) did was great. The crowd got involved too. It was unbelievable. It will remain etched in the series of every cricket follower. The world watched it and celebrated.”