‘Stargazing’: Players in Ravi Shastri’s life | Sunday Observer

‘Stargazing’: Players in Ravi Shastri’s life

1 May, 2022

Title: ‘Stargazing: The Players in My Life’
Author: Ravi Shastri
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 336

Though the name Ravi Shastri is famous for cricket commentary and coaching, some four decades ago it was known for a batting, bowling and fielding genius. In fact, he was the second batsman after Sir Garfield Sobers who recorded six sixes in one over which was a magical feat at the time. Those days, whenever the Indian cricket team toured Sri Lanka, our cricketers as well as cricket fans were vigilant on this great Indian cricketer. It was because he could change the course of the match instantly and win it for them.

Ravi Shastri has one and half decade cricketing career and more than two decades of commentating career – according to the experts he is one of the world’s top cricket commentators with an incomparable perspective. In this aspect, his new memoir ‘Stargazing: The Players in My Life’ is an important book in sports literature.

Extraordinary talent

The book, co-authored by Shastri and Ayaz Memon, a sports journalist, presents some 60 extraordinary talents Shastri has met from across the world. There, he sums up important aspects of those cricketers who have inspired him. As he puts, the first seed to write the book grew in him in 2016:

“The thought of doing a book on cricketers – past and current – whom I’ve admired, enjoyed playing with/against or watching, above all learnt from in the past fifty years, came to me in late 2016, during one of my travels for a commentary assignment.”

However, he completed the book only last year because of his busy life after taking charge of the chief coaching job in the Indian cricket team in 2017. So he launched the book in 2021 thanks to the free time resulting from the Covid 19 pandemic.


The book has four sections apart from the introduction. The first section titled Growing Up Into The Game consists of seven chapters which included seven notes on many great cricket veterans such as Garfield Sobers, Ian Chappell, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Farokh Engineer, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and spin masters such as Erapalli Prasanna, Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Srinivasaraghavan. Last chapter in it, Learning In The Box, describes Shastri’s experiences as a cricket commentator with few other great commentators such as Richie Benaud, Greg Chappell, Barry Richards, Tony Greig and Nasser Hussain.

The second section titled Friends And Rivals offers new insights into techniques of some of great cricketers such as Clive Lloyd, Gundappa Viswanath, Mohinder Amarnath, Zaheer Abbas, Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Graham Gooch, Javed Miandad, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Malcolm Marshall, Allan Border, David Gower, Martin Crowe, Dean Jones, Wasim Akram, Steve Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Jonty Rhodes, Allan Donald, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble. This section also includes notes on three Sri Lankan players who are Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda De Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya.

Third section, From The Box, describes other cricketing talent: Sourav Ganguly, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Heyden, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Adam Gilchrist, Chris Gayle, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, A.B. de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, Kevn Pietersen, etc. This also consists of three notes on three more Sri Lankan players: Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardane and Kumar Sangakkara.

The last section, Back In The Dressing Room, Different Avatar, offers further essays on some more cricket legends: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kholi, etc.

Garfield Sobers

Though some netizens criticised the book saying it was boring, it is not so, at least for foreign readers. For instance, read the first chapter of the book on Garfield Sobers titled ‘A League Of His Own’:

“The first I heard of Garfield Sobers was in my home in the early 1970s. Barely ten, I had begun to show some aptitude in both bowling and batting, which kind of impressed my father. “We have a Sobers in the house,” he once declared jokingly to his friends who were visiting.

“I hadn’t seen Sobers play when the West Indies toured India in 1966-67, so for the first few years of my cricketing journey, his stupendous all-round skills were known to me only through hearsay. A great deal of it was through my father, who was an unabashed fan.”

“As my cricketing ambitions and education grew I made it a point to learn more about Sobers. What I read – and subsequently saw on videos too – revealed an exceptional, multi-dimensional player who not only won matches on his own, but did so incomparably.”

These details are not boring, and they also give valuable and new information about the player.

Ian Chappell

Following is how Shastri describes about Ian Chappell in the second chapter titled Player Hard, Player Fair:

“My first cricket hero was Gundappa Viswanath, but Ian Chappell is the one who I grew up idolizing after being initiated into the sport.

“There was no TV coverage of overseas cricket in the 1970s. Radio was the only real-time link to cricket action happening outside of India. I would be glued to Radio Australia whenever matches were played in that country, and this was my introduction to Chappell.”

“…. If you don’t take the field to win, why play at all? Chappell was the kind of player I wanted to be. He was a polarizing figure in his heyday. He played really hard, but also played fair, as I got to understand, which seemed the best way to play.

“I would read about how he would be in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with opponents on the field, then share a beer with the same person immediately after the game. This was ‘spirit of cricket’ for me, and made Chappell even more endearing.”

These details are full of insights and information. The facts are also given in a light and simple way, hence the easy reading.

Here are some other facts by him on more cricketing talents:

Gundappa Vishwanath

“I would keep a scrapbook of sorts of Gundappa Vishwanath’s exploits, and whenever possible, if he was batting, keep my ears glued to the transistor. Among my most enjoyable memories while growing up is following India’s astonishing, record-breaking run chase at Port of Spain in 1976 on radio.”

Clive Llyod

“I watched from close quarters how Clive Lloyd handled his players, when to put an arm around someone who is struggling, what signals to send to someone who was being difficult that day. As a youngster on the international circuit in 1983-84, I imbibed some of his man-management skills which were of value to me later.”

Javed Miandad

“Javed Miandad was a streetfighter in the garb of a cricketer … sharp, cunning, audacious, with a never-say-die spirit.”

Allan Border

“An important thing I learnt from [Allan] Border was to leave the pressures and bitterness of battle behind on the field after stumps have been drawn. We’ve had our sledges and verbal jousts, but once the match was over, he would be the first to offer a beer. And advice for any young cricketer, which I latched on to eagerly in my early years.”

‘Stargazing: The Players in My Life’ is a book which one should add to his sports book collection.