Ravishankar Jayadritha Shastri
May 27, 1962, Bombay (now Mumbai), Maharashtra
Right hand Bat
Slow Left arm Orthodox
For over a decade, Ravi Shastri rendered sterling service to Indian cricket as an obdurate opening or middle-order batter, a left-arm spinner integral to the attack, and long-time deputy to a couple of captains.
Tall and good-looking and with an image to match, Shastri was glamorous in an age when few cricketers were - no matter if it was in stark contrast to his playing style, which was stodgy, with pushes and prods where others used more lavish strokes; with the ball, he was mostly not more than defensive, pegging away on a good length. Shastri was like Navjot Sidhu in reverse: starting off as a lower-order hitter, he ended up as a stonewaller at the top of the order. (Though occasionally, contrary to his image as a dour plodder, he went into top gear, as when he equalled Garry Sobers' record of six sixes in an over, in a Ranji Trophy game in January 1985.)
His detractors charged that he batted too slowly, that he was selfish in his batting, that he continued to be in the India side only because his Bombay team-mate Sunil Gavaskar was captain. But Shastri let his performances on the field speak for themselves.
No one could deny his immense value to the side, his commitment to the team's cause, and his consistency. Against Australia he averaged a formidable 77.75 from ten Tests, about a third of those runs coming in Sydney in 1992, when he took young debtuant Shane Warne to the cleaners in making a double-hundred. Another highlight down under came in 1985, when he starred in India's win in the World Championship of Cricket, with eight wickets and 182 runs in five ODIs - the most memorable expression of his value as a utility white-ball player.
A deep thinker and a shrewd strategist, he led India to victory in the one Test he captained - against West Indies in Madras in 1988.
Though he played 80 Tests, Shastri was just 30 when he appeared in his last match. He went on to a career as a commentator known for his combativeness and his robust way with a cliché. He then served as India team director, and later, coach for a spell during which the team chalked up two landmark Test series wins in Australia.
Batting & Fielding