After Time Asia featured former cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan, on its cover in its December 14th edition, Outlook has followed suit by doing a cover story on former Indian Test cricketer turned commentator Ravi Shastri.
The Indian news magazine, which had previously dubbed President Obama as ‘the underachiever’ on its cover in response to Time doing the same to India’s Dr. Manmohan Singh, was under considerable pressure to mount a ‘tit for tat’ response this time around as well. Finally, after much brainstorming, during which many names were considered and passed over, one of the editors suggested Ravi Shastri to which there was a murmur of approval and the editors high-fived each other.
“Once we zeroed in on Ravi Shastri, the story pretty much wrote itself. The similarities between him and Imran are striking, though they may not be immediately obvious,” noted the Outlook editor. For instance, if Imran Khan addresses huge gatherings during his rallies, so does Ravi Shastri through his cricket commentary. And talking about ushering in social justice and eradicating corruption sounds as clichéd as ‘doing it in singles’, so both draw level as far as articulation of vision is concerned. “This underscores the point that Ravi is as much a mass leader in India as Imran is on the other side of the border,” noted the Outlook editor.
Their post retirement careers have evolved along similar lines as well. Imran was not taken seriously as a politician, while Ravi would be greeted by jeers from the stands. Now of course, a match involving India seems incomplete without Ravi presiding over it just as Imran is seen as the people’s choice to be the next PM of Pakistan. Over time, Imran has come to be regarded as the darling of the military establishment, taking a strident stand against drone strikes in FATA. Ravi, on the other hand, is the blue-eyed boy of the BCCI, touting their line in public, whether it is a categorical rejection of DRS or passionate espousal of IPL.
And there are the conquests off the field too. The Time article talks about half the people attending Imran’s rallies wanting to be like him and the other half wanting to sleep with him. “Well, Ravi’s been as much as a ladies’ man as Imran was in his hey days,” counters the Outlook editor softly, “though I admit that now half the people listening to his commentary want to go to sleep.”