Ahead of India's tour of Australia, Ravi Shastri, who just unveiled his line of men's grooming products, is all praise for Virat Kohli
Those who grew up in the ’80s, knew Ravi Shastri as the gritty all-rounder, who went from No. 10 on the batting order to No. 1 in a matter of 18 months, who hit six sixes in as many balls and later scored the fastest double century in first-class cricket. In the ’90s, he became a household name, if he wasn’t already, for taking up the mic and turning commentator (the youngest cricketer to do so) and offering expert insight into the game. Since the late 2010s, he is most recognised as the coach of the Indian cricket team. And now, as we approach the end of 2020, Shastri has taken on the role of entrepreneur with his latest venture 23 Yards, a clean beauty brand specialising in men’s grooming products.
This might strike most fans as an odd choice, a move that is uncharacteristic of the seasoned sportsman. But for the 58-year-old, it’s par for the course. “Right through my career, there has always been great emphasis on grooming. During the lockdown, when a friend asked me if this was something I’d be interested in, I thought ‘why not?’ When we are on tour outside the country, the first stop we always make is at a Boots store or a chemist to try out aftershave or cologne. So this has always been an important part of my lifestyle,” shares Shastri, on a Zoom call from Mumbai. Excerpts from the interview:
What are some lessons from your career as a sportsman that you’ll take forward in your entrepreneurial journey?
I think the most important lesson is attention to detail. Never be satisfied with what you have achieved, never rest on your laurels, always strive to do better. Be consistent by maintaining discipline. These are all qualities you learn from playing, watching and commentating on sports. What I learnt from being a cricketer, I used in my career as a broadcaster, and what I learnt from broadcasting I have been using in my role as a coach. And all of these lessons, I will apply in my journey as an entrepreneur.
What is your take on the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year?
It’s a fantastic IPL. Kudos to Brijesh (Patel, Chairman, IPL) and his team for pulling it off. With the country under lockdown, the economy at its worst and the crisis the world is going through, people needed a shot in the arm. And the IPL came at the right time.
What’s most interesting is that the quality of the game, despite players not being on tour for months, has not diminished one bit. As a coach, I’m quite surprised at how they have maintained consistency. I think they’ve looked after themselves during the lockdown, ensured that they have stayed fit and gotten their bodies in the best possible shape. But from a player’s point of view, it must be very, very difficult. I’ve not encountered it yet but from what I have heard and what I see, I know what I will have to go through when I join the Indian team again. Being confined to the bubble doesn’t sound easy. It’s just the hotel and the ground and the same people... you see the same faces day in and day out. It’s hard on you mentally, especially for the younger players. It’s important that you are mentally tough and in a good space. Because if you do it for two months or three months and then take a break, it might be okay. But when you do it for 6, 8, 9 months, on the bounce, it’s going to be challenging.
It’s tough times but hats off to the players and even my colleagues in the commentary box, for raising the level of commentary and keeping everyone excited. It’s a tribute to the entire cricketing fraternity.
From what you have seen of the IPL so far, which players do you think show promise?
It’s too early to tell because everyday there’s a game. You may start off well and then go off the boil. But one must remember that every year, the IPL will produce these youngsters, because it’s a stage like never before. It’s an opportunity for young players to rub shoulders with some of the best in the world. If they have the talent, just being in the same dressing room as these stars is enough to learn and improve their skills.
After you took over, the Indian cricket team went to the top of the rankings across all formats of the game. What do you think contributed to that?
I think belief more than anything else. Believing that it was a very good side that just needed a little moulding. I saw the way they enjoyed the game, played the sport, their discipline and their work ethic. Everyone knows where the team was when I took over. Once they tasted success, it became an everyday routine for them. If you look at the last three years, they’ve been No. 1 in every format of the game at some given point or another. The only thing they are missing is an ICC Championship. Having said that, winning and losing are not always in your hands, but effort, vision and belief are always up to you.
What are your thoughts on Virat Kohli as a captain?
Virat is second to none when it comes to work ethic. I don’t think there’s anyone close to him, not just in India, but even internationally. He’s set the bar so high, it’s a great opportunity for others to emulate him. And they are doing that.
From cricketer to commentator to coach to entrepreneur. What drives you and which role did/do you enjoy most?
I think I enjoyed every role. Drive and passion can take you far. I don’t look at a new task or role as impossible. I treat it as a challenge. Thinking in that fashion helped me go from No. 10 to No. 1 in the batting order and score centuries and double centuries. If I was negative in my thinking, I would have never performed. Similarly in broadcasting, when I took the first job, I said I want to be one of the best. Yes, it was different from what I was used to but I thought I could work at it and I worked damn hard. When I was doing that, I was asked to take on another job, which was coaching the Indian cricket team. I treated that as a challenge as well. It’s much easier to take over a side that has already done extremely well than a side that is struggling and that’s what the Indian team was. They were struggling by way of performance and by way of confidence but from there, to see where they have gone gives me great job satisfaction.
What kept you busy during the lockdown?
Sometimes adversity brings out the best in you. I’ve been on the road for 40 years. I’ve never had a break. As a player, broadcaster and coach, I would have a maximum of 30 days in one year when I’m not travelling. So this was like a blessing in disguise. It gave me a chance to reflect, give my body the rest it needed, reflect, recharge my batteries and think afresh. I spent a lot of time reading and did more walking, yoga and swimming than I have ever done in my life. It also gave me time to think about where I can raise the bar, which areas to tighten and which new areas to venture into.
What are you expecting from India’s tour of Australia, scheduled for later this year?
The schedule is out but we’re still awaiting confirmation, because quarantine measures change with every region. It’s going to be tough. Although, the boys’ experience in the IPL will come in handy. The world has not seen something like this since World War 2. The game has never before come to a standstill for 7-8 months. It’s something new for the guys all around.
“All my life, everything I’ve done has been about the 22 yards, the size of a cricket pitch. But what separates the men from the boys is going the extra yard — the 23rd yard. That’s what I’ve always strived to do and that’s why we named the brand 23 Yards,” shares Shastri. The brand is in collaboration with Ador Multi Products Ltd. and comprises a host of men’s grooming essentials that include a beard oil, beard wash, face wash and sanitisers, amongst others. Sulphate-, paraben- and cruelty-free, it is one of the few men’s grooming labels in the clean beauty segment. The products are infused with natural ingredients like lemon, bergamot, orange, aloe vera and argan oil. “We decided to go with fragrances like lemon, orange and bergamot because, as a sportsman, I know that after a full day of being on the field or training, there’s nothing like zesty citrus notes to make you feel refreshed,” he explains.