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Sunil Gavaskar makes a welcome comeback – and how!

Sunil Gavaskar has lambasted the Indian players and management for their lackadaisical attitude towards their cricket © Getty Images
Sunil Gavaskar has lambasted the Indian players and management for their lackadaisical attitude towards their cricket © Getty Images

In a series of outbursts Sunil Gavaskar has come out all guns blazing against some of BCCI’s baffling decisions. Abhishek Mukherjee delves deeper…

To NDTV on the work ethics of the side: “India’s work ethic has been pretty abysmal. It has let the team down. They have not practised well and there can nothing be something like optional practice. There was no excuse for anyone apart from Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli to miss practice.”

To Star Sports on how the cricketers are getting complacent: “The only thing that comes to my mind is that there is that worry and there’s probably a fear that if these guys do well, what happens to our favourites in the team. This is what breeds complacency.”

To Star Sports on the weird selection policies: “Are you worried that Cheteshwar Pujara will score runs so that your favourites who are not consistent might have to make way? Are you worried that Ishwar Pandey will pick wickets, and again some of your favourite bowlers might not be certain of a place in the team, what are you worried about?”

To NDTV on Duncan Fletcher: “For me, Duncan Fletcher would get 1.5 in a scale of 10 as far as his success is concerned. I believe a younger guy should be appointed as the coach of the Indian team.”

***

Recall the early 1970s. Recall the build-up to the Emergency Period; recall the political turmoil and economic nadir; recall the general restlessness in the country; recall the period where every middle-class Indian had a dormant volcano sleeping somewhere very deep inside, ready to explode, eventually leading to Zanjeer being a blockbuster and the launching of Amitabh Bachchan.

Far, far away, in the land where the Sun shines bright and they play Calypso and bowl fast, there was a man with a frame as different from Bachchan as possible: he was diminutive, never had the macho look, wore a floppy hat, and was armed with technique, temperament, courage and discipline to take on the fastest of bowlers.

He made runs, 774 runs in all, and had won the first series of note for India. The legacy had been formed a couple of years before Zanjeer had happened. Between the two of them — the tall and the short, the glamorous and the disciplined, the one in bellbottoms and the one in whites, influenced the 1970s like none other. The Indians saw their pent-up anger finding an outlet by one on celluloid and by the other on the field. One took on the antagonists; the other fast bowlers. And they ruled.

Sunil Gavaskar had captured the imagination of the Indians the way few others had: he scored runs by the thousand; he never flinched; he never hesitated to give it back to the bowlers; and never led the administration dominate him. In short, he represented what the nation had always dreamt of becoming but could never quite manage: outspoken, brutal, and uncompromising.

Then the floppy hat and the SG bat found their ways to some corner in the Gavaskar household, and out came the suits and ties and a chair behind the microphone or desk. Gavaskar was candid as usual, but with time he mellowed down. He was no longer the Gavaskar the nation had worshipped: they took to Sachin Tendulkar and gradually accepted Gavaskar as just-another commentator-and-columnist and moved on.

The world witnessed The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sink to new depths with a single-minded effort to drag the greatest of all sports down with it. The fans, wanted to protest — but their helpless frantic voices were muffled. They needed a leader — a hero — who could show the way and lead from the front.

And then, when all seemed lost, he came to the rescue. He came to the forefront the way he used to in the 1970s. There was only so much he could take: he finally decided to become the voice against the mercenaries hell-bent against the existence and future of the sport they love so much.

It is the 1970s all over again. They have their leader now. And as they know, this is one man who never gave up till the opposition manages to run him over. The bat had protested many a time against the management and the media in the 1970s and the 1980s; it is time for the pen to take over now.

Nail them, Sunnybhai. Or, as Tariq Engineer has written in Firstpost, “Welcome back, Mr. Gavaskar. We have missed you.”

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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