For close to six months he lived in his farm house in Alibag. “The bloody virus was moving around like a tracer bullet,” his laughter confirming his state of mind. Now, as he turns an entrepreneur by launching a range of hygiene and grooming product line called 23 Yards, he ventures into an unknown zone.
“Not really. I have travelled enough to understand this business and I am excited at the prospects,” Shastri told Sportstar . In partnership with Ador Multiproducts Ltd, he will be creating products like face wash, aftershave, body wash, hand sanitisers and deodorants.
Can’t you sit idle, one asked him. “I was sitting idle when this bubble burst. When it burst, I had to do something. I had a handy exposure to life for 40 years. I always found that these essentials and grooming products are part of your travelling life. On the many tours I went to, one of my first stops would be for different shoes, perfumes, deodorants, after shave, shaving gel. Not just me, most members of the team wanted to pick up these essentials. They were not accessories but essentials. Like a mobile phone today. The festival season is coming and it is the best time to launch the products. It has a tremendous range of essentials.”
He detailed his process of turning to this business. “Ador are the masters. They do it for who is who of the society. They asked me if I was interested and I told them the name would come from me. I chose 23 Yards because all these years my life has been around 22 yards. To be recognised for your effort you have to go to the 23rd yard. Whether to win the World Cup, accolades with the team, as broadcaster, coach, going from No 10 to No 1 in the batting order, you have to walk that extra yard. Rather than being afraid, which majority are, I walked that extra yard. That’s why this name.”
He agreed there were other products too to give a stiff competition. “I was always curious to try something new. It was Old Spice when I started and then something else, and then, something else. It is a 5.5 billion dollar industry with a targeted growth of 40 percent growth every year. There are players in the market but there is room for new players.”
Shastri credited his grooming at home the reason for his being so grounded. “Travel and exposure has helped me. Travelling by train, bus, to practice at the Wankhede Stadium, and, when taking a train to go back, the first thing would be to look for a deodorant for a feel good factor. Something to splash on your face, get the fragrance to keep you going. The business part I learnt from meeting people. This is something that was part of my life style.”
Shastri travelling in buses and trains? Hard to believe! “I have traveled in buses and trains. That’s why these products are aimed at masses. It was masses who came to watch us. I was also once among the masses sitting in the stands. These products are for 18-plus. They are affordable and made in India. It will be manufactured in Pondicherry. I have tried to understand the subject. I know what is popular and what do people like.”
How much being a cricketer helped him undertake various challenges in life? “Which other person will be exposed to the masses like a cricketer. I have been traveling from the age of 14 in local trains and buses. I still remember bus number 314 took me to my school. I know bus number 90 will bring me to Colaba where I now stay. I know which train takes me where. I know all the routes by heart still. Just like you will reel off which player was caught at square leg or caught off top edge in a particular match, who ran out who. You can’t achieve anything in life if you forget where you came from, I know where I came from. I have played in places like Siliguri, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram, Visakhapatnam, Srinagar, Jaipur, the length and breadth of the country, travelling in all kinds of transport. Travelling a day and quarter for my first Ranji Trophy game (against Bihar in March 1980) to Jamshedpur with the likes of (Sunil) Gavaskar, (Dilip) Vengsarkar, (Sandeep) Patil, (Karsan) Ghavri, (Padmakar Shivalkar), Suru (Nayak)….
Lockdown in Alibag
So, how was the lockdown at Alibag? “It was basically reflecting and refreshing your mind. I did things I had not done for a long time, lot of yoga, walking and reading. Lot of swimming too. I feel physically and mentally in much better shape.
Shastri was upbeat on the new normal of playing in a bio-bubble. “Fantastic the way they have pulled of the IPL. Brijesh and his team. Not easy. Bubbles have been created and are followed. Players adhere to it strictly. Cricket is totally different now. Like you are in jail. Room to ground and back to the room. There are designated areas and you have to stay within them. You can’t break the bubble. Tough times because it can become very lonely. Hats off to the players the way they have adapted.”
He praised the commentary team too. “They are doing a great job. Keeping the energies levels up. The noise adds to it. The viewership is like never before because people are at home. I see smiles on the faces of the people when I go out.”
Shastri, however, hoped the spectators would return to the venues. “The mental part is very important. When you have people around you the adrenaline is different. You go into a slump and you suffer more when there is none around. You see the same people day in and day out. Same room day in and day out. You see same faces everywhere. I have not experienced it but hats off to guys who are coping with it as if everything is normal when it is not normal. You have to be more strong mentally. Not an easy thing. You are struggling for space, there are strict dos and donts. There is a road defined and you have to stick to it.”
The Australia tour
Is the team ready to travel to Australia later this year? “Absolutely ready! We switch on when we get to the situation. Bigger switch than ever before once you get to that zone. You are waiting. You are prepared.”
His parting shot was his response to views on the media. “You are the guys who put us on the map. Where was TV those days. It was Sportstar and The Hindu so passionate about sports. The number of Sportstar covers and posters I have. My mother has preserved them all. She has kept this treasure for me and it is so refreshing to go through them again.”