Ravi Shastri is in the news again. While MS Dhoni may have been coerced to step down as limited overs captain of the Indian cricket team, the development has rekindled a recently dormant debate in the cricketing fraternity -- who the best Indian skipper of all time is. In hailing MS Dhoni, former player and team director, Ravi Shastri, has discreetly thrown a punch to add to his long exchange of verbal volleys with Sourav Ganguly.
A day after the announcement by the Board for Cricket Control in India (BCCI), Ravi Shastri praised MS Dhoni’s decision in an interview with Wisden India, saying, “My salaam to a dada captain”.
Furthermore, he said Mahendra Singh Dhoni was “easily India’s most successful captain” and named Kapil Dev, Ajit Wadekar and Mansoor Ali Khan as the only other cricketers worth terming as successful Indians captains.
This has given Virat (Kohli) time till the Champions Trophy to prepare for the title defence. MS (Dhoni) has won everything there is to win, he really has nothing to prove. Again, the reason I say he has nothing to prove is that he is easily India’s most successful captain, by a distance. There is no one even close to him in that regard,” Shastri said.
“The names that follow in that list a fair distance behind are Kapil Dev, who led India to the World Cup title in 1983 and because of whom we won the Test series in England in 1986. And Ajit (Wadekar) in an era before there was one-day cricket, when we won successive Test series in the West Indies and then England in 1971. And of course, Tiger (Pataudi) for flamboyance. Baaki koi nahi [there is no one else],” he added.
Sourav Ganguly, the former team India captain affectionately known as “dada” was left out from Shastri’s list..
Personal prejudice aside, Ganguly’s omission on a list of accomplished Indian captains cannot be justified.
Not only did Ganguly help steer the India cricket team through a difficult period (match-fixing scandals) in the early 2000s, he also boasts a superb record at the helm.
India’s win percentage in the 49 Test matches that Ganguly led was 42.6 per cent, while it was 51.7 per cent in 147 ODIs. Ganguly also led India to the 2003 World Cup final and helped establish India’s dominance in the game over the last decade and a half.
Ganguly’s leadership has been praised not just in India but the world over. Hence the blatant omission by Shastri seems more of a personal vendetta than a lack of achievement.
The grudge between the two former players was in the limelight in June 2016 when Shastri was replaced by Anil Kumble as team coach of the national side, after 18 months in charge.
Shastri blamed Sourav Ganguly for his ouster, claiming that the former India Opener, as member of the three-man Cricket Advisory Committee, lobbied for Kumble to replace him and convinced the other panel members, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, to do the same.
Ganguly retaliated saying, “If Ravi Shastri feels that Sourav Ganguly was responsible for him not being the India coach, he is living in a fool’s world.”
Shastri and Ganguly also questioned each other’s professionalism at the time with Shastri saying Ganguly was “disrespectful” for not being present for the interview for the new coach, while Ganguly said Shastri should “not sit in Bangkok and give a presentation while being on a holiday”.
The two seemed to have momentarily made peace in September 2016 when they were present on a common dais during India’s 500th Test celebrations in Kanpur.
Shastri’s comments regarding Dhoni’s captaincy and snide comments, indirectly undermining Ganguly’s achievements, might rekindle the feud.