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I am who I am because of cricket: Sunil Gavaskar on his 75th birthday

I am who I am because of cricket: Sunil Gavaskar on his 75th birthday
I am who I am because of cricket: Sunil Gavaskar on his 75th birthday


Sunil Gavaskar, the original Little Master of Indian cricket, turns 75 today. Over the years, he’s played without a helmet against the fiercest fast bowlers, earned India respect through his performances, become an iconic commentator and never stopped loving the game. And when he does have some time, there’s nothing he loves more than inspiring a new generation of cricketers. It’ll help him stay relevant even in 2024.

Sunil Gavaskar in action during the third day of the 5th Test match against West Indies, in Kolkata on December 12, 1983. (Getty Images)
Sunil Gavaskar in action during the third day of the 5th Test match against West Indies, in Kolkata on December 12, 1983. (Getty Images)

Excerpts from a conversation with the legend:

Milestones are a big part of cricket. You touch one in real life with your 75th birthday. How does that feel?

When I was playing, I didn't even know when I would reach 75. At 50, people would applaud. When you get closer to 100, there would be anticipation. At 75, if you guys didn't tell me, I wouldn't even know I reached 75.

The Indian cricket team has given you the ideal birthday gift with the T20 World Cup…

Oh, I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present than what Rohit Sharma and his boys gave me. I’m still on a high. People ask me if I’m over the moon. No, I’m still in orbit. The consistency they showed, even in the ODI World Cup and now again. Any team that plays that well has to be the best. And it’s India’s team. My team, your team.

Unlike today, the Indian cricket board was not strong during your playing days. It was almost intimidating for a lot of players, but you always took a stand…

It wasn’t easy because you got pitches that were so much in favour of fast bowlers. That’s why I laugh when they complain about spin-friendly pitches now. People forget quickly. Now we have fast bowlers, so pitches like that are not prepared. Even then, when Kapil came, they were forced to think. But when you were playing for India, you didn’t want to back down in a confrontation. We wouldn’t initiate it, we would give it back. We were a generation after independence and there was no awe for the British or the Australians. There was admiration when they played well.

Can you tell us what explains your zest for life at 75?

I am who I am because of cricket. I still enjoy watching others play and it is a blessing to be able to talk about the game. The moment I get bored watching, I stop. But for now, I still look forward to new magic from a Jasprit Bumrah or a batter, every time I go to a stadium.

You’ve spent twice as much time commentating as you did in your playing days. How have you stayed relevant for so long?

As the game has evolved with T20 cricket, you have to look at it from a completely different perspective. There are no quiet overs in T20 cricket unless you have a bowler like Bumrah. Again, with Bumrah, every ball is an event: a bouncer, a slower yorker, a fast yorker, an in, an out. It keeps you on your toes and involved in the game as it unfolds. I am fascinated by the strokes that the guys play, the scoop, the ramp, the switch hit. I know a lot of people in my generation don’t like T20. But I love it because of the entertainment it provides. That’s why I feel comfortable commentating in that format.

England tried to play some of these strokes in Test cricket too, which didn't work in India. But you seemed to enjoy it while it lasted…

Because they were playing a different kind of cricket. Yes, they found a match in an Indian team that had learnt its lessons after the first Test of the last series. They were not able to implement it. But while they were doing it, it was entertaining. It was like throwing all the guns into the fight, even when you were almost being run over.

If you look at Test cricket, only India, England and Australia play five-Test series. Is that half glass full or half empty for Test cricket?

I see it as half full. Because only these countries have the talent, the energy and the resources to play all formats of the game today. The other boards don't quite have the resources. Nowadays, it's only when these countries are playing that Test cricket excites you.

We saw the reception that the Indian World Cup winners got last week in Mumbai. Do you also find it special to see the amount of love that the Indian cricket fan gives?

Cricket is a sport that has been in the hearts of Indians for years. The videos I saw of the common man braving the weather just to see the bus carrying the players were heartwarming. It is a boon for Indian cricket from above. When we came back after the 1971 victory against England, our celebrations were more subdued. The celebrations of the 2007 T20 World Cup were magnificent. After the 2011 ODI World Cup victory, the streets of Mumbai were blocked for a good 4-5 hours after the victory.

Can you tell us something about your philanthropic work over the years?

I am very involved with the Heart To Heart Foundation, where we perform free surgeries on children with congenital heart problems, most of whom come from financially disadvantaged sectors. Our success rate is almost 99 percent. The other is the CHAMPS Foundation, where we have helped those Olympians who have found themselves in financial difficulties after retirement.

Is everyone waiting for your book on the technical side of cricket?

(Laughing) The old technique… I mean, it's still there, but new layers have been added. Someone who has played all these formats can write today. Maybe Sachin (Tendulkar) can write.




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