'Shami was having mutton rice. Shastri said 'Bloody hell; will you satiate your hunger here itself or...'': Ex-IND coach
Ravi Shastri has been praised for his man-management skills while he was head coach of the Indian team and a member of his staff recalled how he pushed fast bowler Mohammed Shami into giving a match-winning performance.
India's 2018 Test series in South Africa was seen as the beginning of captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri's endeavours to ensure that the team's image as poor travellers in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) countries is changed. The series was significant in many ways with India going into it with three dangerous fast bowlers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, who made his Test debut in the series.
The three-match series was a hard-fought one but South Africa claimed victory by taking a 2-0 win. While the Indians regularly managed to slice through their top order, the likes of AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and captain Faf du Plessis in the middle order would help South Africa make competitive totals and the Indians would then falter to Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Dale Steyn, who only played in the first innings of the first Test.
However, India turned things around in the third Test, winning the match by 63 runs in Johannesburg on a treacherous pitch. While Bhuvneshwar won the player of the match for his all-round performances, it was Shami, who had been belted around the park in the first innings, whose five wickets took India to victory in the South African second innings.
"We lost Cape Town. We couldn't chase down 208 which was ridiculous. Then we lost Centurion, another match we should have won and where we could have been 2-0 up or at worse 1-1. We had already surrendered the series when we went to Johannesburg," Sridhar says in his book 'Coaching Beyond: My Days with the Indian Cricket Team'
"We did the unthinkable by choosing to bat because we felt the conditions would only get worse for batting as the game went on. Shami didn't turn up in the first innings - he went for 46 runs from 12 overs, and on the fourth day, he was again reasonably inconspicuous till tea, by which time South Africa appeared on course for victory. Needing 241, they had reached 136/3 when the lads trooped in for tea break."
Sridhar recalled that Shami looked 'disinterested' when he had come back in for tea on the fourth day. Chasing a target of 241, South Africa were 136/3 with 119-run stand between Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla having just been broken and Bumrah dismissing the dangerous de Villiers for a single-digit score.
"Shami looked disinterested as he came back in, and as he did for lunch, when he had piled up his plate with rice and mutton curry. During the first interval, Ravi lashed out at Shami after taking a glance at the bowler's plate. "Bloody hell, will you satiate your hunger here itself or will you save some of it for wickets too?" he shouted.
In his typically laconic, laid-back fashion, Shami drawled, "Haan, haan, yahan bhi kha lunga, udhar bhi kha lunga (Yes, yes, I will ear here and I will eat there too)"
Shami at the time had bowled nine overs for 18 runs and had one wicket. "We all shared Ravi's frustrations because this was a series that ought to have played out differently. It looked as though for all our toils, we would have nothing to show. Just before Shami left the dressing room to return for the post-Tea session, Ravi took him aside and would him up. Not by telling him he was a match-winner and stuff like that, but by reminding him of the lunch-time conversation and Shami's promise," added Sridhar.
"Post-tea, he was unplayable. He blasted through the middle and lower order to finish with five for 28, and we ended up winning by a comfortable 63-run margin. As he sauntered back into the changing room, he grinned wickedly. 'Haan, mereko aur gussa dilao aap log. Merko gaalo do. Utna gussa nahi dilate jitna dilaana chahiye. (Yes, please make me angry. You people should curse me. You don't make me as angry as you should)," Sridhar concluded.