It will be an amazing coincidence when Ravi Shastri arrives for the first day of the first Test between India and New Zealand at Wellington's Basin Reserve on February 21. It was on this very ground, exactly 39 years ago to tomorrow that the former India all-rounder made his Test debut.
The lanky left-arm spinner came into the team as a bowler. But thanks to the talent he possessed, Shastri ended up becoming a very successful all-rounder who also scored a double century in Australia at Sydney – in the same match where Sachin Tendulkar also got a hundred and Shane Warne made his debut.
On his debut though, Shastri played as a bowler and not an all-rounder. His batting position was no. 10. Since India chose to bowl after winning the toss, Shastri's first job was to bowl in New Zealand's innings. He had good figures of 3/54 in 28 overs. The three scalps he had were of Jeremy Coney, Martin Snedden, and Gary Troup.
Coney was Shastri's first Test wicket. He then wrapped up the innings by getting the no. 10 and 11 batsmen out. When his turn to bat came, Shastri walked in with India reeling at 213/8. The current India coach scored three runs in his debut innings and remained not out after facing 17 balls.
India then struck back, after conceding a substantial first innings lead, and bundled out the Kiwis for just 100. The lanky left-arm spinner played a key part in this innings also with stunning figures of 3/9 in 3 overs, his wickets being no. 9, 10, and jack.
Finally, in the fourth innings of the match, when India were chasing a target of 253, Shastri managed a score of 19 and was the ninth wicket to fall. India ended up losing this match by 62 runs. This loss was part of New Zealand's first series win against India.
Now, as he returns to the venue of his first outing in Test cricket, Shastri would know that this series is even more important than the one he played in. Last time India played a Test series in New Zealand, in 2014, they lost 1-0 with the then captain Brendon McCullum starring with a double and triple century each in the two matches.
Though India have won their last two away series – one in Australia and the other in West Indies – the challenge of winning this series would be much greater. West Indies are a vulnerable side in Tests whereas Australia were without their two best batsman in that contest. New Zealand, who are a very good team in home conditions would be more difficult to beat.