Sunil Gavaskar Turns 60
By: Clayton Murzello
Sunil Gavaskar, who celebrates a landmark birthday tomorrow, takes some quick singles off deliveries from Mid Day
These are busy times for Sunil Gavaskar. Not long after returning from his media duties in England, he had to deliver the inaugural Dilip Sardesai Memorial Cricket Lecture at the Cricket Club of India last week. After that, another trip abroad. A couple of days in Mumbai and it’s travel time again. This time, to spend his 60th birthday in Puttaparthi on July 10 where Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is based. Some devotee this and a long-standing one! When you step into the cabin of his Central Mumbai office, there is not a hint of a busy schedule a cool operator punching in words selectively on his sleek laptop.
He never fails to offer you a refreshment. This time, before we get talking, he wants to ensure his air conditioner doesn’t affect the recording of the interview.
He’s emphatic when you ask him questions relating to matters close to his heart. His laugh has an extra decibel level to it. It tells you that the batting great is in good spirits. However, Gavaskar doesn’t give the impression that he is too excited about completing 60. At least he doesn’t show it. And you can believe him when he says he hasn’t had the time to reflect on his landmark birthday that he celebrates tomorrow.
Do you feel like a kid? His reply is straight, no-nonsensical. “No, I stopped feeling like a kid when I realised I’ve got to watch my sugar.”
But completing 60 must mean something? Again, there is no playing to the gallery:
“You don’t think of yourself as five, 10, 20, 30. You just look forward to the day and thank the almighty for giving you the extra day and for being able to do what you enjoy doing and have family and friends around you. You have to give thanks for that.”
The innings is off to a steady start as it were. It’s time to get to the middle overs. He is informed about the type of interview we want from him and it will be a snappy affair. Gavaskar takes guard and plays fluently.
One thing which means more to you than anything?
My family means the most to me.
One thing that puts you off about people?
Presumptuousness. Presuming things about others not so much about themselves but others without actually finding out the reality, the facts.
One thing you don’t like about yourself?
That I am too trusting. I trust too easily.
One thing which you would like to see changed immediately in cricket?
I would like to see leg byes abolished from the game. Also, I would like to see overthrows after a direct hit not given. The restriction of bouncers should be stopped too.
One aspect in Indian cricket you want changed?
Indian cricket is on a high. I don’t think there is much I would like changed. It’s going in the right direction. There will always be a hiccup here and there which is part of sport. We’ve got a good set of administrators, a country full of tremendously supportive and enthusiastic fans. Maybe they could just be a little patient with the team when it loses and not make up stories. Players are human. They are going to fail occasionally. Not everybody takes wickets, scores runs and holds catches every time. We’ve got to understand that players are under tremendous pressure.
One thing which you don’t like about sports officialdom?
The resistance to change. You have to change not drastically but change with the times and I think there is a general resistance to change. It’s not just with Indian sports administrators. It’s with administrators all over the world.
One big turning point?
Mr Worthington who coached the Indian schools team probables in 1966 changed my game completely from a front-on position to side-on in 30 days. You can say that’s the biggest turning point.
One feat you were very thrilled to achieve?
The 1983 World Cup win. That’s the biggest win as far as Indian cricket is concerned. It was huge. Nobody gave us a chance. The team quietly believed they could do it after beating world champions West Indies in our first match. And when we finally did it, it was the biggest moment for all of us.
One Test century that stands out? Still Manchester 1974?
Still Manchester 1974. I hadn’t scored a hundred for three years. I was starting to doubt if I had it in me skill-wise and temperament-wise to score a hundred. To be able to score that century in cold conditions and on a greenish pitch just gave me back the belief.
One piece of equipment which you have preserved and treat as sacrosanct?
I have kept most of the caps I got. I have got the bats with which I scored my first century and double century.
One colleague/friend you miss most?
Eknath Solkar for sure. We grew up together as cricketers. We used to ride in buses from the Brabourne Stadium. Ekki would get off at the Hindu Gymkhana while Milind Rege and me used to proceed to Nana Chowk. I really miss Ekki and we had some wonderful times. After nets we used to go out for idli dosa. Often it would be three masala dosas shared by the three of us. Two lassis shared too. And we were always fighting about paying the bus fare. Ekki was such a simple guy but was very confident of himself. I miss ‘Kaka’ (Ashok) Mankad too and Sardeeman (Dilip Sardesai) but I miss Ekki the most.
If there is one drink you miss, would it be Roggers lemonade?
Yes. When we used to play tennis ball cricket at Chikalwadi near Bhatia Hospital, my late uncle Pramod Pandit used to take us for a treat if we were in his team and that treat was Roggers lemonade. There would be around eight of us but that one or one-and-a-half sip tasted unbelievably good.
One snack you are still a sucker for?
Parle-G biscuits. I am surprised that they have not called me for an endorsement.
Do you still dip the biscuit in your tea?
Absolutely. Dropping tea on those four biscuits and ensuring the outer crust remained hard helped me with my concentration.
One type of wine you enjoy?
I am not big on wine but a Chilean would be the best.
One line you say to God everyday?
I just thank him for giving me such a wonderful family, such a wonderful life with friends and affection of so many Indians all over the world.
One quality your son Rohan has got from you?
He is determined like me. He’s got integrity as well.
One adventure which you want to undertake?
I wanted to sky dive which I have done. I would like to go water skiing. I don’t know how to swim but I would like to do it (skiing).
One actress you were attracted to?
Madhubala would have to be the one.
And one favourite actor?
There were some really really great ones but Shammi Kapoor was numero uno. Still is! Every time I see glimpses of an old film of Shammi saab, the blood races.
One actor you made an attempt to look like?
I would have loved to look like Paul Newman which is the reason why I actually started parting my hair on the right side because he used to do it.
One rocket for your critics…
(Laughs) I am going to be 60 so what rocket am I going to give? Just say to them, ‘look, please don’t put words in my mouth. Don’t put headlines to which have no relation to what I’ve written or said’.
One lingering regret?
Not even the Melbourne 1981 walkout?
Yes, that is a regret because I was the captain of the country. People who have seen the video will see that it wasn’t that I asked Chetan Chauhan to walk off with me straight after I was given out. It was only after I got the abuse that I turned back and asked Chetan to walk off. I guess as captain of the country, despite the provocation, I really should have kept my cool.