Shastri recalls early days with national team

Wellington: India’s head coach Ravi Shastri has recalled the days when he made his international debut 39 years ago. In a conversation with Cheteshwar Pujara on the eve of the first Test between India and New Zealand here Shastri said that he would have never believed that he would be visiting the same venue in India colours where he had made his international debut.

“I would have never believed I would come to the same ground, the same venue, playing against the same opposition. I went into the same dressing room, nothing has changed. I made my debut here 39 years ago. I wouldn’t have believed it to the day, 21st of February, I would be back after 39 years,” said Shastri on the eve of the opening Test in Wellington.

“It’s been a great journey. To come back after 39 years, you would have never imagined. That too in India colours in an Indian dressing room but I will never forget that because I reached New Zealand 9.30 p.m. at night (on the eve of the Test),” he added.

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“The late Bapu Nadkarni came to the airport to pick me up. The Indian team was at the high commission for their official. I went straight to the hotel room. There was no one there. So I crashed out. The next morning, Sunny lost the toss, we were put into the field. There you go, I was playing the game straight away.”

“I think I was nervous, like anyone playing his first game. But I bowled tidily and I got the wicket of Jeremy Coney, which gave me confidence. Conditions were totally different when compared to wherever I have played because there were circling winds and it was a very, very cold day.”

“I didn’t even have a sweater. I wore Poly Umrigar’s sweater. Poly gave me a sweater just before I left, that came very handy.”

“In fact, when I first walked out of the dressing room, I saw Hadlee, I saw (Lance) Cairns, I saw John Wright, Jeremy Coney whom we just listened to on the radio. Even in my own team, there were a lot of them who I hadn’t met. Gundappa (Vishwanath) was my childhood hero. It was great to play in a series with him. Sunny, of course, was captaining the side. There was Kapil there and a lot of these players, I met for the 1st time. When I took the field, I had not even met half of them.”

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“Thanks to you guys, I am with a great team, I call it a great team. I have watched cricket in those 39 years. When you look back, I would rate this team as good as any team that has played the game. When you look back, across all formats, the way they have travelled in the last two years not just white-ball cricket but red-ball cricket. It’s a testimony to the fact that this is a terrific Indian team.”

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