Former cricketer and India’s team director Ravi Shastri has found a way to get involved with tennis – a sport he refers to as his “first love” – as he takes on the role of special advisor to the UAE Royals in the IPTL.
Shastri, 53, believes he can nurture team spirit as well as help build the UAE Royals brand in this second season of the league.
“Tennis was my first love before cricket. But I had no choice but to take up cricket because the facility was better in my school,” Shastri told Sport360 at the unveiling of the UAE Royals at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
“The concept of the IPTL fascinates me. It’s individual sport to team sport and I’ve been part of a team culture for 35 years. Just to see the enjoyment the tennis players have when they play in a team, it’s something new to them and it’s refreshing for everyone who sees it.
“Just seeing that bench, when you have Pete Sampras and Roger Federer sitting together, having a conversation when someone else is playing, it’s fabulous. It opens the eyes of team sport to them.”
Indeed, getting to experience the environment of a team is what many players regarded as a highlight from their participation in the first season last year.
“IPTL fascinates me. It’s individual sport to team sport” – Shastri
“On a personal level it’s unbelievable. Sharing the bench with Pete Sampras. Having fun with Gael Monfils in doubles, playing mixed doubles which I never do. That’s cool and different,” said Roger Federer, who won the league with the Indian Aces in the inaugural season.
While the owners of the Royals believe the IPTL can one day be as successful as the Indian Premier League (IPL), Shastri would not go as far as agreeing with them, but sees huge potential in it.
“Different sports, different cultures, but for a concept that started last year, it caught the imagination of a lot of people,” Shastri said when asked to compare the IPTL’s potential compared to the IPL.
“Now is the time to drive home the advantage and when you have someone like Roger playing for the UAE Royals you don’t need anything more. And Virat (Kohli) being part of it as a co-owner. He’s a great guy when it comes to team culture, he’s captain of his nation, so it’s fabulous.
“I can help build a team culture, not just in the sport, but also in building the brand. Because I’ve moved around the world as a sportsman, as a broadcaster, now the director of Indian cricket, so I have that experience. I can help build the brand of the UAE Royals.”
Novak Djokovic says he didn’t expect the matches in the league to be as competitive as they were last season but Kohli, the co-owner of the UAE Royals, believes it can be even more competitive this year.
“When you’re playing in a team environment, the motive is obviously to make the team win and I think it’s that feeling that’s making it more competitive,” explained Kohli. “Hopefully I can come in and give all the positive vibes and positive energy to make the team win this season.”