For several cricket fans who grew up in the 80s and 90s, Ravi Shastri will forever be the Champion of Champions, an epithet that was granted to him after the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985. Part of the big three of Indian cricketing legends – Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar being the other two – Ravi has been an inspiring figure not just for his own generation but also the millennials.
One of his most fascinating qualities is his ability to adapt to changing times, rediscovering himself as a broadcaster, then as a commentator and administrator among several other roles.
And now, the head coach of the Indian Cricket Team is playing the perfect part of a motivator and mentor. Aligning himself with the India-based Greycells Education Ltd, a leading vocational training provider as an advisory member, Ravi mentors students who often may be confused about career choices. And it this role that brings him to Dubai as well, where he has been holding interactive sessions at the prestigious EMDI, an institute carved out of Greycells, that imparts career-oriented courses in event management, advertising, media, PR and the like. Articulate, fun and extremely focused, he is the guide that every student would love to have. Find out why in our very interesting chat with the ‘Champion’.
What made you take up this role?
I have always had an attachment to the field of education since my mother was a teacher. I have also given a lot of motivational lectures over the years, to corporates and others, using sports as a metaphor.
So when Sanjiv (Chainani, the co-founder of Greycells Education Ltd) asked me, I was more than happy to oblige. Also, sports and event management is the future – look at the number of sporting events taking place! In India you have the IPL, then the Kabaddi and hockey league, to name just a few. All of these need qualified people who can manage them efficiently.
How is sports management different from any other field of event management?
Every event has different logistics. A sporting event is different from a wedding or a celebrity show. Today is the day and age of specialisation and not a generalisation. Hence it’s useful to get into the nitty-gritty of different fields. For instance, celebrity management in sports requires specific skills. And when you specialise in that, you get an idea of how to mix both – the sport and the celebrity, so that you can understand his or her image, and position him or her for brands, accordingly. In essence, this is what vocational training is all about.
In your opinion, what do millennials want from their career? What are their concerns?
There are no concerns, they just want to be part of the bandwagon. What I find though is that there are more people coming from non-metros who want to be part of the big game. They have the hunger, drive, passion and desire to make it big.
Ravi, how does a sportsperson turn into a brand?
It’s simple. First, you make it to the Indian cricket team and begin playing for the country. You are playing a sport that people love. The sport has everything – fitness, travel, the challenge to rise to the occasion and passion. Since I sit on the other side, as a head coach, I tell the boys that every day they have a chance to become a hero. And suddenly everyone is chasing you – to sign on bats, to give autographs, to attend events… Straightaway you are building a brand.
You were one of the earliest sportspersons to turn into a big brand. Do you remember your first ad?
Oh yes, I did everything in my time! I don’t remember my first one but I did a lot of ads as a youngster. There was a show called Chaaya Geet that had six ads before it and I used to be featured in about five (laughs). Profile, Vimal, Nescafe, Lifebuoy, Gillette and there was some ad where I was on a bike!
Which sportsman in your era did you look up to as a brand?
Boxer Muhammed Ali. He was the ultimate. There were tennis stars too like Bjorn Borg and Boris Becker among others but for me, it was always Muhammed Ali.
These days, do you think any cricketer will have a long career like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev or you?
Career options post your cricket are always there! In my case, after my active cricketing days were over, I took to broadcasting and I took to it like fish to water! I jumped into a commentary box and it all happened naturally. I was lucky!
And now as a coach, you are handling yet another profile. What advice do you give cricketers on handling the off-field pressure? Like, say, social media pressure?
Social media, frankly, is a huge distraction. The boys hear different things from it and then it’s up to them how they handle it. I usually tell them to read and forget it. They have to focus on what they need to. We usually read stuff and laugh about it.
Do our cricketers post themselves on their social media?
Some do but they don’t always have the time. They will be sending the message but they have people putting it out in the right manner.
How do you react to the trolling and controversies on media? Are you immune to it too?
It vanishes in time so no one cares. It doesn’t matter.
How would you describe the stress of being the head coach of the cricket team, in today’s social media-savvy time?
Massive! Being a coal of the Indian cricket team is like being the coach of the Brazil football team. You have to win every game, you have no choice. So you just have to be patient and you should be able to get the team to be consistent although you know you can’t win every time.
From being a player to a commentator to a businessman, you are always associated with the game in one form or the other. What do you do outside of cricket?
I just chill. I listen to music by the pool, get drinks with my friends and hang out. I am also into fitness heavily. We get a chance to train with the team during match days. I swim a lot. Gym work is pretty light but as long I keep myself active, I am happy.