Facing the wrath of Ravi Shastri: R Sridhar recounts being called a 'novice coach'

In his book 'Coaching Beyond', the ex India fielding coach recalled an interesting incident that left Shastri angry and the head coach unleashed it on him.
R Sridhar

India's ex fielding coach R Sridhar reminisced the time he was called a "novice coach" in brash anger by former head coach Ravi Shastri, who wasn't amused by his reaction to one of Shastri's suggested ideas during the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. 

Less than a year into his job, Sridhar recounted in his book ''Coaching Beyond: My Days with the Indian Cricket Team' that Shastri wasn't at all pleased by how he took to one of the head coach's ideas on how to improve the performance in the middle. 

The idea, Sridhar writes in his book, was for a small pre-game exercise before every match where every player would talk about his plans and how they were to tackle the challenge and each situation they are faced with. 

"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," Sridhar writes. 

"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."

When Shastri fumed at R Sridhar 

As good an idea it was to encourage game involvement of every player part of the then MS Dhoni-led Indian side, Sridhar felt to do it before each fixture would diminish its importance and rush players into an additional activity when they rather spend their energies on practice for a match.

Cut to the group stage encounter versus South Africa at the MCG, Sridhar opted to communicate his thoughts about Shastri's idea to bowling coach Bharat Arun, whom he found his strong confidant, someone he can easily open up with. 

"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'."

Unfortunately for Sridhar, he wasn't aware that Arun had put the call on speaker with Shastri in his presence, hearing everything that the fielding coach felt about the head coach's idea. The former's views really hurt the latter, who is known for not mincing words as he got riled up and unleashed his wrath on Sridhar. 

"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," Sridhar writes. 

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Sridhar said while he still thought he was right, Shastri's words and the tag "novice coach" left him unnerved and gave him a sleepless night. And it took a comprehensive win over the South Africans, in which India fielded brilliantly, for the tension to ease between the two, leading Shastri to even praise Sridhar. 

"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."