Skull attack and Cardiff highs: Ravi Shastri relives Glamorgan days

Indian cricket team coach Ravi Shastri played for Glamorgan in county cricket during his playing days.
Indian cricket team coach Ravi Shastri during nets at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff ahead of the second Twenty20 International against England.(Reuters)
Indian cricket team coach Ravi Shastri during nets at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff ahead of the second Twenty20 International against England.(Reuters)
Updated on Jul 06, 2018 06:02 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Cardiff | BySanjjeev K Samyal

There were some serious fast bowlers operating in the County circuit when Ravi Shastri played for Glamorgan, but the skull attack that gave Shastri high was the Brains Bitter!

It is not the name of a bowler, but a popular local Welsh brew. “One pint of Brains Bitter beer and your head will feel the impact; that is why it’s called Skull Attack. Three shots and you will see stars. The short form is SA,” says Graham Swarts, a veteran fan of the Cardiff-based club who was at the Indian nets at Sophia Gardens on Thursday to get autographs and catch up with the India coach.

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The Welshman has been a lifelong Glamorgan supporter and seen Shastri play for the County (1987 to 1991). He recalled even sharing a beer with the former India all-rounder. As Shastri walked back from training, he chatted with the Welsh fans who were there seeking autographs.

Bonding with fans

Their talk veered to his old days in Cardiff and Swarts reminded him of his favourite watering holes. “We have seen him enjoy his SA at his favourite pubs. I have shared a pint with him once, just walked up to him and chatted.”

Shastri joined the chorus, saying aloud the names of the pubs with the locals. “Cross Keys, Three Horse Shoes… Captain’s Wife,” they sang.

“Where I lived, Dinas Powys, the two pubs he (Swarts) mentioned were Cross keys and Three Horse Shoes, I loved going there. They were my locals. When I moved to Sully, I would frequent Captain’s Wife, which is right in front of the bay,” said Shastri. Swarts joined in, “it was next to where Viv Richards lived.”

It’s not merely for his friendliness and taste for good life that the Welsh remember the India coach.

“Javed Miandad, Viv Richards, Waqar Younis… some big names played for Glamorgan, and Ravi served us well. He is well liked here. He is mentioned in all the Glamorgan souvenir books, they give him a nice write-up.

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“He was a fine all-rounder, a tough character, was a fine bowler and a good fielder,” recalled 79-year-old Swarts, a retired field engineer in the oil refineries with UK Construction.

Toughening up

Shastri said: “Fabulous memories, they are great people, very friendly. See there (pointing to Swarts and the group of Glamorgan supporters), I enjoyed the lifestyle here.”

Shastri has always said how his stint here influenced his career, the experience helping him get hundreds against the world’s best teams.

“All County teams had really, really good pros, so you had to adapt. I went and got hundreds against everyone (after the County stint).

“If I got my two hundreds in England at the top of the order, it is because of County cricket. I went on to get hundreds against West Indies (he rates as his finest the 107 out of India’s total of 251 at Bridgetown against Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh), Pakistan, a double hundred in Australia, and they were all top teams,” said Shastri.

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Explaining how the experience changed him as a batsman, he said: “Just challenging conditions, adapting to the new ball, moving ball, seaming ball. Unlike international games where you get better tracks, in County cricket you get grass on the wicket. You got to work hard for your runs. Being with some real good pros, you mention any fast bowler of that time and he was around here – Malcolm Marshall, Wayne Daniel, Wasim Akram, Michael Holding and Sylvester Clarke. When I started, Imran Khan was also playing… you name them and they were all there, so it was good practice.”

If India win on Friday, Shastri may celebrate with a Skull Attack at his old watering hole with Welsh fans.

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