IND vs AUS: “Ravi Was Starting To Lose His…” – R Sridhar Recalls When Shardul Thakur Lied To Ravi Shastri During Sydney Test In BGT 2020-21

R Sridhar
R Sridhar. Image-Twitter

Former India National Cricket Team fielding coach R Sridhar has shared an incident in his recently published book ‘Coaching Beyond: My Days with the Indian Cricket Team’ where the pace-bowling all-rounder Shardul Thakur disobeyed and lied to then head coach Ravi Shastri during the historic Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2020-21.

Sridhar was conversing about the third Test of the four-match series between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari battled pain and a hostile Australian bowling attack to snatch a spectacular draw.

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R Sridhar revealed that at the stroke of Tea, a tactical decision was made that Vihari would take on the strong Australian pace attack and Ashwin would take on the star off-spinner Nathan Lyon. Notably, the decision was made considering the hamstring injury of Vihari and Ashwin’s back problem.

“Vihari and Ashwin came in at tea, and while we converged to congratulate and encourage them, a tactical call was also made. Vihari had pulled his hamstring and was not able to play Lyon convincingly because his movements were restricted. He couldn’t put in the good, long stride. Ashwin, meanwhile, was being subjected to a bouncer barrage from the quicks. So, it was decided that Ashwin, at home against Lyon, would take on the off-spinner and Vihari would negotiate the three-pronged pace attack,” Sridhar wrote.

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Everything was going according to plan when suddenly the duo took an unneeded single, which led to Vihari going up against Lyon and Ashwin facing the deadly pace attack. Seeing this, Shastri was left fuming and he sent Shardul Thakur, during the drinks break, with a clear message that the batters will have to strictly stick to the plan, revealed Sridhar.

“After having stuck to their respective ends of the bargain, for some strange reason, they took a single, which exposed Vihari to Lyon and Ashwin to the fast men. A couple of singles later, the situation was unaltered and Ravi was starting to lose his shirt. He summoned substitute Shardul Thakur and told him, ‘Listen to me very carefully, and repeat this to them: No matter what happens, Vihari will handle the fast bowlers, Ashwin will play Lyon. No singles, no change of ends, period. Got it?’Shardul smiled coyly and said, ‘Yes, sir’, and charged to the middle with a bottle of water for Ashwin,” Sridhar added.

He didn’t pass on Ravi’s message; instead, he told the batters exactly what they wanted to hear – R Sridhar

Sridhar further added that Shardul had exchanged a few words with Vihari and Ashwin in the middle and when he came back to the dugout Shastri asked him whether he had conveyed the message, to which he responded “yes, sir, of course”.

However, later the truth came out that Shardul disobeyed and lied to Shastri. Instead of conveying Shastri’s message, Shardul told the batters what they wanted to hear. Notably, Sridhar was impressed with Shadul’s move and he lauded the all-rounder for the same.

“After exchanging a few words with the two batters, he ran back in. ‘Did you pass on my message?’ Ravi growled. ‘Yes, sir, of course, Shardul replied.

“It was only much, much later, after we had pulled the fat out of the fire and escaped with one of the greatest draws, that the real story came out. It seems when Shardul went in, Ashwin asked him what was being said in the dressing room. Shardul replied, ‘They are saying many things, but you guys don’t worry. You are batting well, just continue doing the same things’. He didn’t pass on Ravi’s message; instead, he told the batters exactly what they wanted to hear at that time. 

“Perhaps he sized up that passing on the instructions, however, steeped in logic they might be, could disrupt the flow of the batters and the zone they were in, so he passed on a message he thought was the best under the circumstances. Hats off to him! In a direct way, that is linked to the kind of empowerment we gave the players, and which they learnt to use judiciously,” Sridhar noted.

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