The all-time icon maintains a busy schedule, traversing different continents to watch and promote cricket, and creating awareness on social causes.The all-time icon maintains a busy schedule, traversing different continents to watch and promote cricket, and creating awareness on social causes.
“Though there is too much of cricket
happening all over the world, I think teams are playing the right amount of
cricket,” feels Sunil Gavaskar. Sunil
Gavaskar continues to command the respect of the cricket fraternity with his
insightful views on the game.
He is much appreciative of the changing
trends and the approach and skills of modern-day batsmen. He is a rare Indian
cricketer who holds no rancour and bitterness and goes out of the way to
recognise the contribution of the current generation. A stickler for
traditions, he has sometimes taken a critical view of the behaviour of some
cricketers but he often finds words of encouragement for those who display the
spirit of the game.
The former India opener, captain and one of
the all-time icons of cricket maintains a busy schedule, traversing across
different continents to watch and promote cricket, and creating awareness on
different social causes. Despite a hectic schedule, Gavaskar, 70, found time to
speak to Sportstar in this wide-ranging interview.
Is cricket a side-on game..
Very much. The more side-on you are the
better your chances of being in a position where you will be able to negotiate
as a batsman.
The importance of having a proper stance?
Tiger Pataudi once told me that it does not matter if you stand upside down as
long as you meet the ball with a straight bat. He said stance was important but
it can change.
Stance is clearly an individual thing. It
generally has to be where your back eye is. If you are a right-hander, your
right eye is the back eye, and if you are a left-hander, your left eye is able
to see where your off-stump is. And therefore you take your guard accordingly.
Whether you take leg-stump, two-legs and a middle-stump, the idea is to know
where the off-stump is. That’s what you try and do. The stance becomes crucial
because it is important to know where do you stand in relation to the
off-stump. But today, of course, people stand with their bats raised up in the
air. It’s a slightly different thing but then the guard also becomes important,
whether you take a leg-stump guard or a middle-stump guard. If you are a taller
person, you would take a leg-stump guard. If you are a shorter person you take
This concept of bat speed, is it a modern
phenomenon? Did you ever give a thought to this aspect?
It’s a modern concept because of the
limited-overs format that you see. Therefore the bat speed has to be that much
greater for you to be able to hit the ball into the stands. You can’t hit the
ball into the stands with a gentle push. There is no speed. You want the bat to
come down with great speed.
How important is having a still head?
Just see, if you are standing and shaking
your head, you will never be able to see the ball. You won’t be able to judge
the moment. If you have a still head, you know which way the ball is coming and
what is the trajectory. You would still make a mistake, otherwise the bowlers
won’t be playing this game. Everybody would be a batsman. The general thing is
stiller the head, the more chances you have of being able to negotiate the ball
How do you develop the art of judging the
Straightaway. The moment the ball is
released. It’s an instinct. It comes naturally. The instinct gets better over a
period of time. The instinct and the ability to know what the pitch is going to
do after the ball pitches in that length, becomes that much better.
Guard, stance, balance, grip, shot
execution… How do you coordinate all these qualities?
Guard is to tell you where your off-stump
is. Tells you which deliveries to play and which to leave. Once you get into a
situation where you want to look to be playing shots and maybe you can change
the guard too from leg-stump to off-stump. All those things can be done.
Did you tend your bat?
I did look after my bat. Cleaned it whenever
I could. Whenever there were spots on the bat. Sure, you have to look after
your bat. You definitely do. That’s the instrument with which you are going to
score the runs.
How did you choose your bat and how many
bats did you keep at one time in a season? One or two bats?
I was lucky. I generally had two bats. And
very seldom did I need a third. So, the bat manufacturers were very good. I
used to get a Duncan Fearnley bat. Outstanding equipment. For three years I
played with another. I don’t want to take the name because the bats were not of
a great quality. So I used to just put their sticker. Then came my last, second
half of my career virtually. And Sanspareils Greenlands came in. They were even
better than Duncan Fearnley in terms of the balance, everything.
We were told your bat did not have chipped
edges because you always played straight and almost everything hit the middle
of the bat?
No, no. There would be edges. Definitely.
But the bats were so well made, the edges won’t generally chip away. The other
bats earlier on, the wood would chip away.
Is it true that no one could touch your bat?
Would you allow a colleague to play with your bat in a Test match? You also did
not want to be disturbed before your turn to walk out to bat.
Of course, I would allow. Why not? Once I
would put on my box, that’s when I would start thinking about the innings. Even
as captain I would keep speaking about the batting order and all but put the
box on only when the umpires’ bell would ring. Because it would be five minutes
before the match started, or the innings started. It would take me two minutes
to be ready. Box, thigh pad, leg guards, not more than two minutes.
When should you change from a high back lift
to a low back lift? Or is it a habit?
No. It’s instinct. You have a low back lift
and it’s a yorker coming at you so obviously you can’t have a high back lift.
You see the yorker coming at you and your back lift becomes shorter immediately.
At which stage of your innings did you
decide to play the cut or the cover drive? They were said to be avoidable
shots. Can one play a cut off the first ball one faces?
Nothing wrong with playing a cut off the
first ball. Nothing wrong. It’s a matter of your confidence. If it’s your best
shot to score runs off, then why not. You have to play it. In my case, the cut
was not my best shot. It was always the drive. The cut was something that I
would be more comfortable playing after I felt I had got a sense of what the
pitch was doing, how much bounce was there. I would not mind playing a cover
drive off the first ball I faced.
How much of net practice would you recommend
before a match?
It’s an individual thing. The problem with
the nets is the pitches are not always good. Because they are not covered. So
what happens is you could get injured. Not injured in a way that it would stop
you from playing the match the next day, but injured in a way that would hamper
your batting. For example, if you got bruised on your fingers, or you got hit
on the thigh pad, or you got hit just between the leg guard and the thigh, that
would definitely have an effect on your batting. So I avoided playing in the
nets before a match in the later part of my career.
Did you practise your shots?
Of course, I did. In the nets.
Your favourite shots and one which you did
Favourite shot was always the straight
drive. Because you are presenting the straight bat. It was always a great shot
to play. There was nothing like a difficult shot. Every batsman will have
certain comfort levels playing certain shots. You are good at certain shots and
you play them far more frequently. Other shots you don’t. But I think
generally, for me, because of my height, the pull shot would have been
difficult. Often the ball would be up in the air because the pull shot, if you
are a little taller, it would be easier to get on top of the ball and play it
How did you approach fast bowlers without a
Never thought about it. If the equipment
(helmet) was not there, what do you do? Never thought in terms of a helmet
because we all started our careers without helmets. No question of thinking
about the helmets.
Then, was it technique?
You don’t necessarily need good technique to
succeed. You need good temperament. You need to be confident about yourself.
You must be wanting to take on the challenge of playing fast bowling.
You were a brilliant judge of ‘leaving’ the
ball and avoiding the bouncers. How did you master this technique?
I think it’s a bit of practising. Because of
my height, I would be bullied by all the fast bowlers. They would try to bully
me. For them the bouncer was the main weapon apart from the usual out-swing and
all that. So you had to practise more at the school and club level. More at
club level. And then translate the experience to succeed at the Test level.
What attracts you most in modern day
What I like about the modern game is that 99
times out of 100 there is an electricity about it. So infectious. The
electricity and the energy of modern cricket. I love that. There is, very
seldom, even in Test cricket, a patch which is a dull one. It’s always very
entertaining. I just love watching modern cricket.
Was Andy Roberts the best fast bowler you
Fast bowlers with the new ball are expected
to get you out. Because they have a hard, new ball, brand new ball. The pitch
is something that you don’t know much about if you are batting first. So there
is no big deal if they get you out.
But if a fast bowler can come back in the
55th or 60th over and still bowl the unplayable ball, because by that time you
are well set and probably closer to your 100, if not a 100 at that stage, and
he gets you out, that makes him special. The ball is not new, not hard. That’s
what Andy was about. He would come in the 55th or 65th over and still bowl the
unplayable ball that would get you out.
Can you recall the fastest spells you faced?
There were two. One was by John Price at Old
Trafford. My first ever experience of a green pitch. It had drizzled slightly.
Umpires don’t take you off the field for that kind of drizzle. The pitch was
fresh. And the ball was flying around. John Price and Peter Lever were tough to
tackle. It was very good fast bowling. And the second one I thought was Jeff
Thomson in Perth. Jeff Thomson in Sydney. He really bowled like the wind. He
was always quick. But these two innings he was exceptionally fast.
One fast ball which left you wondering what
Yes, I do remember. It was in the second
innings of the Kingston Test in 1976. Anshuman (Gaekwad) was injured and Dilip
(Vengsarkar) opened the batting with me. It was Dilip’s first season, first
tour actually. He had batted well in the first innings. So when we went out to
bat in the second innings he mentioned to me that he wanted to take the strike.
I said to him NO. I told him his time would come. Let me take the strike. I was
taking strike anyways. And the second ball of that first over from Michael
Holding just pitched on a good length, not short of a good length, and it just
took off. I had no chance. It went over my head and missed it by four inches. I
had no chance to move. Nothing. And I looked at the other end. Dilip had his
tongue out because if it had been Dilip, 6ft tall, the ball could have hit him
on the head.
Do you remember the first ball that you
faced in Test cricket?
Of course, I remember it. It was a bouncer
by Vanburn Holder.
What are your views on computer analyst
training and coaching?
I have no idea about it but I am pretty
certain it has its uses. Because if you are able to go back and quickly check
what, in a particular over, how well you bowled, why you haven’t bowled, or why
you have not played a particular delivery or shot well, you would get a quick
analysis, which would be pretty useful. As long as it is not overdone, I think
there’s a place for it.
Anything that today’s batsmen lack in
I think the only thing they lack is
patience. I won’t say they lack it. You can say patience is in short supply.
There are exceptions, of course, and they are in the top five or top 10 in the
rankings. But otherwise, the quality of patience is not there.
Any misconceptions about you? You were
arrogant and not approachable.
Honestly, nobody has ever told me. I don’t
really know. But I guess the two things that you mentioned perhaps could be the
misconceptions about me!
Your test of character? Was it the 221 at
the Oval in 1979 or the 129 at Kotla (in 1983)?
I honestly really never reflected on such a
thing. This is the first time you are making me think. I really wish I could
tell you what it was.
One incident that has stayed with you.
There are many. The greatest incident was us
winning the World Cup. Can’t call it an incident. Best memory.
Your idea of a perfect innings. Can there be
a perfect innings?
No. But during the course of an innings, you
can have a perfect hour, a perfect couple of hours. In the chase against the
West Indies in 1976 (403 to win), at the end of the day we were (134/1) and I
was (86 not out). That, to me, was the most perfect patch of an innings that I
have played. Next day, I struggled to get those 14 runs to get to the 100. I
just didn’t find the same rhythm that I found after the (West Indies
declaration). The chase was an over-nighter. Sometimes you could be at the
non-striker’s end, you may have been in good flow, you could be hitting the
ball well, but you may be just getting one ball in an over because your partner
would have been hitting the ball well and getting runs. That can upset the
rhythm and the flow of your innings — not getting the strike for some time.
Why did you always caution against extending
the drinks break?
Because in the process you are giving the
tired opposition fast bowlers that extra bit of rest, the tired fast bowlers
that extra breath. That’s the reason I would get upset if the non-striker —
say, after the fast bowler would have bowled four balls — he would try and tie
his shoe laces, or try and do something to his pads and give the bowler that
extra resting time. I would get very angry.
What are the major challenges facing Test
Major challenge is attracting crowds to the
venues. They have got so used to the limited-overs version. The excitement and
the big shot-making in these limited-overs formats is making them watch less of
One thing you are proud of…
The 1983 World Cup win. Not the 29th Test
century or the 10,000th run. World Cup is the ultimate.
Anything you would like to do differently…
Maybe, if I had not asked Chetan (Chauhan)
to walk off after being abused (by the Australians in Melbourne in 1981). The
only regret, and I say that firmly with my tongue in my cheek, is not saying
after performing, not saying that I did it for the team, or I did it for my
country. Maybe I should have said it. But again I am saying it with my tongue
firmly in my cheek.
For you what is grit? For us, you were grit,
standing on the pitch against the best of fast bowlers.
What is grit is to be able to stand your
ground. Be it against the opposition on the field. Be it against the opposition
off the field. That’s grit. Taking them on is grit.
The batsman you admired the most?
More than one. Obviously Garry Sobers,
Gundappa Viswanath, Rohan Kanhai. I admired these guys a lot. Rahul Dravid,
Sachin Tendulkar. I admired these guys too. Viv Richards was sensational. These
guys were so good. The guys I loved to watch were Virender Sehwag and Mahela
Jayawardena. They were very nice to watch. Great fun.
Are we playing too much cricket?
You get this feeling because there is too
much of cricket happening all over the world. Not necessarily that one team is
playing too much cricket. I think teams are playing the right amount of
Did you also play that much of cricket…
Not really. Maybe the last four or five
Do you think the West Indians and South
Africans have declined?
West Indians, certainly. Their batting has
got no consistency, no concentration.
Have the batsmen become better or bowlers
have become poorer?
Actually, both have improved because there
is a lot more variety. Look at the number of new shots. Look at the number of
new deliveries. The back of the hand ball, the knuckle ball, the Dil-scoop. The
ramp shot was there, the upper cut was always there, but some of these new
shots like reverse sweep and switch hit have made cricket so attractive. Add to
that the all-round athleticism. There is hardly a fielder you have to hide
anywhere. That makes cricket so much more attractive now.
Does it pain you that there is little
interest to play the Duleep Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, Ranji Trophy or Irani
It does pain me. But what can we do? It’s
the same with Test cricket, the longer version of the game which people don’t
seem to have time for. Today, with everything being taken care of because of
the TV rights, whether international cricket or domestic cricket, I think they
should be able to make the entry very nominal. Should bring down the ticket
prices. Give children below 15 free entry.
Will T20 cricket gobble up Test cricket?
No. I don’t think so. Thanks to T20, more
people are watching the game now. We must be thankful to T20 actually. The
connoisseur might argue that cricket standard is not the same, but as far I am
concerned the game has become more attractive.
How can you watch so much day in and day
Who says? Actually it gives me a wonderful
opportunity to see how the game has evolved. How the modern player is adjusting
and adapting his game to it. It is a terrific opportunity (to commentate). And
then to get paid for it and then to be recognised for it is a bonus.
Can you analyse Steve Smith. Does he have a
superior quality of technique?
That’s why I have always talked about
temperament, and not just technique. To me, temperament separates the men from
the boys. Technique is fine. You must have reasonable technique. Decent
technique. But you are most likely to succeed if you have great temperament.
What would you have been if not a cricketer?
I think I would have been a doctor. It is
the greatest profession in the world. You are easing people’s physical pain.
You are curing people. You are waking people from death. Doctors revive them.
You are Godlike if you are a doctor.
What is your association with the Heart to
I am very fortunate to be asked to be the
chairman of the Governors of Heart to Heart Foundation. The H2H Foundation, in
collaboration with the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospitals (in Raipur, Palwal
and Khargar), performs free surgeries for children with congenital heart
defects (CHD). CHD is almost like an epidemic. More than three hundred thousand
Indian babies are born with this.
Ninety thousand might not survive to see
their first birthday. And they all come generally from the poorest sections of
our society. Unable to afford the cost of surgery, barely able to make two ends
meet. That’s why the free surgeries. To see the joy on the parents’ faces when
they know their child is going to lead a normal, healthy life. Seeing that
expression is worth more than scoring a double hundred. At the Sai Sanjeevani
Hospitals, there is only dil (heart), there’s no bill. No billing counters at
Article Courtesy – Sportstar Web