Mumbai: Ravi Shastri played his role — that of an unofficial yet paid spokesperson of the BCCI — to perfection in his typically enigmatic style at the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture here on Friday.
Addressing a packed hall at the Bombay Gymkhana — in attendance were legends like Madhav Mantri and several from the ‘Class of 1971’ like skipper Ajit Wadekar, Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Nari Contractor and Salim Durani — the cricketer-turned-commentator used his high-pitched voice and intimate sense of humour to drive home his point that the BCCI mandarins are saviours of the game.
“The BCCI has been a punching bag. But look at what they have done to the game in the country. It’s on top,” he thundered, much like he does on air.
Dressed in a suit and looking not a day older than 35, the 51-year-old lavished praise on three successive BCCI chiefs including incumbent N Srinivasan.
Sharad Pawar, he said, was the man who gave us the IPL. “He is the one who pushed Lalit Modi to implement things. Given a free hand, Modi did wonders. Let’s give credit where it’s due.”
Shashank Manohar, “a beauty and a no-nonsense man”, also drew laurels. “With him, it was black or white; no grey,” Shastri said, adding that the Vidarbha strongman and Srinivasan made a “great pair”.
Srinivasan, who has faced a lot of heat for his high-handedness and what
not, was described as “a genuine cricket lover and terrific cricket administrator.”
Shastri defended Srinivasan for not giving up his position after the IPL spot-fixing scandal came to light. “If I were the BCCI president or the captain of a team or the head of my political party, I would never have resigned. That’s not the school I was brought up in. I would take responsibility and set the house in order.”
Cricket, Shastri said, was one sport in which India has always excelled. “Show me any other sport that’s doing so well in India,” he said, adding “I don’t understand why people say politicians should stay away from sport. They are excellent administrators.”
Shastri tried to lighten up the mood by equating DRS with ‘Dilip Rajdeep Sardesai’, the ‘joke’ drawing peals of laughter, but actually making little sense.
“What I said three years ago, I still maintain. “DRS,” or Decision Review System, he said “was screwing with an umpire’s head”.
“Get better stuff (technology) and till then ask HotSpot and ‘cold spot’ to go for a walk and go the jungle, get their act together and come back.”
It may be recalled that Shastri has always been a staunch critic of the ball-tracking technology and his stance was vindicated after the recent Ashes series wherein the system drew a lot of flak.
Shastri sidestepped several questions, including one on how former selector Mohinder Amarnath was giving marching orders after he wanted MS Dhoni scaked and dropped after the twin failures in England and Australia.
Shastri, though, agreed the BCCI needed to have a “PR arm and communication machinery”, the absence of the latter, he believes, is reason for the duel between the BCCI and Cricket South Africa. “There’s room for improvement,” he said.