Sunil Gavaskar (right) did not get to meet his only child, Rohan, till he was two months old © Getty Images
Sunil Gavaskar is one of the most cerebral and well-rounded sportspersons India has produced. H Natarajan documents 15 little-known facts that reveal a lot about the legend beyond the cricketing field of play.
The 15 points
1. Sunil Gavaskar could have been lost to cricket had his uncle not spotted that he had been mistaken swapped with another new-born. The uncle [Masurekar] had come to him in hospital when he noticed a small hole near the top of his left ear lobe. But the next day, when he came to see the child he did not find the hole! After a frantic search, Gavaskar was found sleeping blissfully beside a fisherwoman!
2. Sunil Gavaskar once thought he would be a wrestler! In fact, he was a huge fan of wrestler Maruti Vadar. He even used to carry Vadar’s luggage.
3. Sunil Gavaskar, believe it or not, made a fleeting appearance in the Dev Anand-Zeenat Aman starrer Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Milind Rege, Gavaskar’s best friend from childhood and a team-mate in his college and Ranji Trophy days, told a gathering at a cricketing function that when Dev Anand visited his college [St Xavier’s, Bombay] looking for people to be part of the crowd in a song, Gavaskar volunteered. The song was the unforgettable “Dum maro dum”, but one would struggle to spot the man who went on to become one of the biggest names in the history of cricket.
4. Sunil Gavaskar’s favourite Hollywood actor was Paul Newman. “Sunil believed that he looked like Newman. He would try to imitate the actor’s lip movements while talking. “I used to call him Paul,” Ashok Mankad is quoted as saying in Devendra Prabhudesai’s biography on the Little Master titled SMG.
5. Sunil Gavaskar had a rather frosty relationship with Bishan Singh Bedi. But when things were cool between the two, Bedi named his first child Gavasinder Singh as a tribute to Gavaskar’s sensational Test debut series in 1971. This child was from Bedi’s first marriage to Australian Glenn Miles.
6. Sunil Gavaskar played the lead role in the Marathi movie “Savli Premachi“. Later, he appeared in a Hindi movie ["Maalamal"] in a guest role.
7. Sunil Gavaskar also lent his voice for a popular Marathi song, “Yaduniye madhye thambaila vel konala“, penned by Shantaram Nandgaonkar. The song was about similarities between a cricket match and real life.
8. Sunil Gavaskar did not get to meet his only child till he was two months old. Gavaskar was injured during the third and final Test (February 13-16, 1976) against New Zealand and was going to be out of action for two weeks. The team was scheduled to fly directly from New Zealand to the West Indies for a four-Test series in the Caribbean, with the first Test in the West Indies a full two weeks away after Rohan Gavaskar was born on February 22. Naturally Sunil Gavaskar wanted to return home to see his first-born, especially when he was sidelined with an injury for two weeks and India‘s first Test against the West Indies set to begin only on March 10, 1976. However, the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) refused Gavaskar permission and the Little Master could only see his child at the end of the West Indies series two months later.
9. Sunil Gavaskar was such a huge fan of Rohan Kanhai, ML Jaisimha and Gundappa Viswanath that he named his only child Rohan Jaivishwa.
10. Sunil Gavaskar showed exemplary courage during the Hindu-Muslim riots in Mumbai in 1992-93 when he spotted a blood-thirsty mob chasing a taxi with passengers belonging to a minority community. Gavaskar saw from his building the carnage that was about to unfold. He asked his wife to call the cops and ran down to stand between the mob and the taxi asking the dangerous mob to kill him first before they could lay hands on the innocents, which included women. His raw courage saved many lives as the mob dispersed without doing any harm to the minority community.
11. Sunil Gavaskar was the Sheriff of Mumbai in 1994.
12. Sunil Gavaskar is a brilliant mimic who was very good in imitating players and their cricketing styles. Recently he had viewers in split on Kapil Sharma’s Comedy Nights with his imitation of Javed Miandad.
13. Sunil Gavaskar started the Champs Foundation with the aim of providing financial assistance to needy sportspersons.
14. Sunil Gavaskar joined hands with actor Nagarjuna and V Chamundeshwarnath to co-own the Mumbai franchise of the Indian Badminton League (IBL) in 2013. Gavaskar is an avid badminton player and never loses an opportunity to play the game and keep fit. “Badminton has been above all [sport], including cricket. Indeed, it has been my No 1 sport,” he once told The Telegraph. In the same interview, he also said that Prakash Padukone is “India’s greatest sportsman after 1970-71”.
15. Sunil Gavaskar, earlier this year, purchased a stake in the Singapore franchise of Mahesh Bhupathi’s International Premier Tennis League. Gavaskar is one of the four co-owners of the franchisee which is represented by players like Andre Agassi, Serena Williams Tomas Berdych. The team owners reportedly paid US $15 million for the franchises, which they will own for 10 years.
(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/hnatarajan)