When Shastri left Aussies in a spin

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When Shastri left Aussies in a spin

What are the odds on Ravi Shastri having the best one-day international figures in Perth? It’s one of those great cricketing achievements that defy logic. Shastri, an orthodox left-arm spinning all-rounder, claimed five for 15 against Australia in December 1991 to set up India’s crushing 107-run win on what was inarguably the fastest pitch back then.

Of the 12 bowlers with five-wicket ODI hauls at the venue, Shastri is the only spinner, sitting well ahead of some of the finest bowlers like Richard Hadlee (5/32) and Joel Garner (5/47).

“Obviously, there is more for the faster bowlers, but it is a misconception that spinners can’t do well,” Shastri, the team director of the Indian squad, said while recalling his match-winning haul. For a spinner, Shastri’s numbers at the WACA are quite impressive -- in four ODIs, he has taken six wickets at an average of 10.00 and with an economy rate of 2.88.

The five-wicket haul was special for Shastri in more ways than one. “There was a little bit of history coming into that game,” said the former India captain. “We had come to the WACA for only our second match of the tour sometime in the third week of November for a 50-over game against a strong Western Australia team. Azhar (Mohammad Azharuddin) wasn’t playing the game and I was the captain for that match. I remember we were bowled out for 64.

“We were playing a very strong Western Australia attack – they had (Bruce) Reid, (Terry) Alderman, Brendon (Julian), (Tom) Moody and (Martin) McCague (who subsequently went on to play three Tests for England). So here we are, shot out for 64 in some 32 overs (31.5), and they raced to 64 for 1 in no time (13 overs).”

As if the embarrassment of the big loss in front of a decent crowd for the day-night match wasn’t enough, the hosts added insult to injury when the WA 12th man came up with a strange message from the organisers. “‘The crowd has come in good numbers, the lights have just come on, why don’t we play another game’? That was the message. I told them to take a walk and then we went and practiced under lights for the rest of the evening.”

Three weeks later, India returned to Perth for the ODI. Opting to bat first, India put on a fighting 208, K Srikkanth top-scoring with a run-a-ball 60. Shastri, who had made a 68-ball 10, ran through the Australian line-up to set up India’s big win. Not the one to miss the opportunity, Shastri had his retribution off the field as well.     

“We bowled them out for 101 in the 38th over, not all that long after the lights took effect. I led the team off the park, and while the rest of the lads walked on to the dressing room, I went to the Chief Executive’s office and told Tony Mann, ‘Why don’t we play another game? Your crowd has just about settled down with its beers and hamburgers. Let’s have a 10-overs-a-side match’.

“Tony was taken aback, and he knew where I was coming from. Never has a victory or the manner in which it was attained given me greater satisfaction.”

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