The damage wrecked globally by an invisible, common enemy will force people to look at life in a whole new perspective, Ravi Shastri is convinced.
Like the rest of the world, the head coach of the Indian cricket team too finds himself in the unfamiliar situation of being confined indoors, what with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across countries and continents. Typically, Shastri hasn’t allowed himself to be cowed down by the situation, making the most of an unexpected break from the hustle and bustle that has marked his life for more than four decades now.
“It is unusual, yes, but these are also extraordinary times,” Shastri tells Firstpost. “Not a shot has been fired, not a bullet discharged, not a stone thrown. Not one of the high-tech weapons in the arsenal of several nations has been used. And yet, the whole world has been paralysed by a tiny but deadly virus.
“It just goes to reiterate, again, that nothing is permanent in life. It’s unfortunate if you need a tragedy of this magnitude to drive that point home. But sometimes, the most valuable lessons in life come in the harshest, most unexpected and unimaginable ways. It again reminds you that you must enjoy life while it lasts, enjoy it to the fullest, be thankful for what you have and never take anything for granted.”
Shastri, and the Indian cricket team, returned home from New Zealand in the first week of March after a six-and-a-half-week tour, just before the pandemic began to suck the world into its deadly grip. “I suppose you could say we were all fortunate, we dodged a mighty big bullet by making it back home in time.”
The last four weeks is probably the longest stretch Shastri has spent at home in decades, but he insists he is not necessarily itching to get out and get social again. “What’s the point of thinking about something that’s not in your control?” he asks. “The lockdown will be lifted once the authorities are convinced it is safe for people to venture out again. Whether that is next week or next month is not up to us.
“These last few weeks have been an eye-opener, to be honest,” he continues. “It has given every one of us the time to look back and introspect, see where we are at in our lives. The best-laid plans have also come to a naught. People might have planned for six months ahead, for six years down the line, and we are in a situation where we don’t know what will happen six days from now. I feel that if anything, it vindicates the philosophy I have adopted from a very young age – live in the present, live for the present, give everything you have today and don’t hold back. That’s how I played my cricket, that’s how I have lived my life. If you commit yourself to whatever you do today, you will have no regrets tomorrow.”
Shastri’s day involves long walks within permissible boundaries, working out, reading plenty and watching sport. “Reading inspirational books, books about great men, and watching stirring sporting deeds in eras gone by offers great new insights that you can apply to everyday life,” he pronounces. “What can happen when you are caught up in the routine grind of practice, match and travel is that you can lose sight of certain things. This enforced break and the chance it has given to catch up with other things will, I am sure, help all of us in our chosen fields once there is a return to normalcy, whenever that is. I can take some of the learnings from the books I am reading and the sport I am watching into my endeavours, I can develop a different mindset, just as I am sure each one of us will.
“Also, these days, my huddle is with my five dogs – Beamer, who is the boss, Bouncer, Yorker, Skipper and Flipper. There is a lot of valuable information coming from them, and because I am otherwise not around a lot, they are the ones who do the speaking during the weekdays. I only get to speak in the huddle on weekends!”
Offer him a fantasy prospect of, say a 16-hour day without any restrictions, to be followed by an indefinite lockdown, and Shastri immediately says, “I don’t need 16 hours, boss. Eight hours will be more than enough. I will go on a long walk, followed by a leisurely swim and a round of golf. Then, head home, a good meal with the family, and back to reading books and watching television. As social animals, we feel the need to meet with people but it’s important first to connect with yourself before doing so with others.”
That being said, Shastri can’t help but ponder what lies ahead. “Will we have the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia in October? We don’t know really, do we? There is so much uncertainty currently that it will be impossible to state with any assurance when even thought will be given to the resumption of sporting activities. Sport seems a very miniscule part of life under the circumstances, though I do feel that as and when we do get underway, it will definitely put smiles on the faces of people. I personally feel it will contribute to emotional and psychological well-being, but again, that’s in the future and as I’ve maintained, let’s not lose sight of the present in chasing the future.
“What happens if, for instance, you are told that the world will end in three days’ time? Will you spend those three days moping over the fact that life is coming to a halt, or use that to reminisce about the good times you have had, the friends you have made, and be thankful to God for the great ride? That’s entirely up to us. My motto – live life to the fullest, enjoy it.”
Like millions of other Indians, Shastri has also contributed to the relief packages designed to ease the burden to the extent possible on the less fortunate. As a parting shot, he quips, “I don’t believe in hoarding – either in the cupboards or in the mind.”
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