Home > Features >

When an angry Sunil Gavaskar exemplified his fierce pride and honour of being an India player

Sunil Gavaskar… the India cap and the playing attire are sacred for him © Getty Images
Sunil Gavaskar… the India cap and the playing attire are sacred for him © Getty Images

The Supreme Court has chosen Sunil Gavaskar to head the BCCI during the course of the much-maligned Indian Premier League. But in a country that has no dearth of carping critics, who are quick to pass judgments based on loose and unsubstantiated comments, one hears murmurs if Gavaskar himself is clean from the ills plaguing IPL. H Natarajan, who has known the batting legend well for over three and half decades, narrates two anecdotes that will answer the Doubting Thomases.

The first anecdote I would like to share was narrated by Kolkata Knight Riders Director Joy Bhattacharya recently. “Sunil Gavaskar was a commentator on the Indian tour of the West Indies in 2002. One of our younger cricketers had a fairly active night of passion and the lady involved demanded and got one of his India caps as a prize. A day later, she went to sign it from Sunny Gavaskar. He had one look at the cap and asked where she got it from. She refused to tell till he threatened to call the police and have her arrested. After he got the name, he stormed on to the team bus, something he never does, and told the player in question exactly what he thought of the incident, and why he should be ashamed to ever wear an India cap again. Forget that poor man, in five minutes, the entire bus learned more about what playing for India meant than a thousand lectures.”

How many Indian cricketers have you heard who have gone this distance the way Sunil Gavaskar did to value the honour of being awarded an India cap?

At a very young age, Gavaskar had learnt the hard way what an Indian cap meant. Gavaskar was still an innocent kid when he had asked his maternal uncle Madhav Mantri — who had kept wickets for India — his India sweater. Mantri refused his doting nephew by saying one has to earn it. Gavaskar never forgot the lesson and has felt very strongly on the matter ever since; he has voiced his opinion like no other international cricket in this respect and in no uncertain manner.

Full coverage of Supreme Court hearing on IPL 2013 spot-fixing and betting scandal

Gavakar wrote in his book Straight Drive: “Did you know that you did not have to be a player to get the India shirt or cap? All you have to be is a pretty face and give the Indian player a smile, and maybe an idea or two by acting coy, and you will get the Indian shirt off him in a jiffy. He will then conveniently forget that the shirt has been given to him by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) because he is deemed to be good enough, out of the millions, to be in the squad of 14 or 16 to represent India in international matches. He has got there by the dint of hard work, and when he first gets his cap and his India shirts, he will even wear it to bed at night and not want to part with it. But then he plays for a few years, becomes popular and rich, and the importance of the cap and the India shirt begins to wear thin. What the heck! He gets a cap for every tour. Why, sometimes his sponsor makes an India cap for him. The BCCI does not say a word to him for not wearing the standard issue cap for all the team members’ tour, and every series he has more Indian caps than he wants. Ditto with the shirts. He has more Indian shirts, again courtesy the BCCI and his sponsor, than he can wear in a lifetime… Where is he going to keep all this, especially while returning from an overseas tour, what with all the shopping and freebies he has got. What better way to make way for the shopping to be accommodated in the suitcase than by giving an India shirt or two to a pretty face! Who knows, he may get more than a smile from the pretty face! What a pity the India shirt and cap means so little to some of the members of the Indian team.”

Gavaskar believes, and rightly so, that the India shirt and cap have to be earned, and not purchased. Gavaskar further underlines his strong views on the matter: “There has to be a copyright on the colours, the logo of the Indian team. The BCCI must put down a clause in the players’ contracts that they will not give away any of the equipment that the BCCI gives them without the written permission of the BCCI President. Sure, one can exchange caps and shirt with opposition players, for one is sure that they will be kept as souvenir at home or not worn. Even giving a cap or a shirt for charity is fine so long as it’s genuine charity and approved by the board.”

I know for a fact that Gavaskar respects Gary Kirsten (the man who masterminded more success than any other Indian coach) because the South African always wore the sponsor’s cap than the India cap.

Volcano erupts

The second anecdote is one that I had witnessed from close range and could feel the molten heat of the erupting Gavaskar volcano. This was at a media conference at the Oberoi Hotel just prior to the 1992 World Cup. I and another senior journalist were talking to Gavaskar. And because Gavaskar knew us well, there was a comfort level between the three of us.

The senior journalist asked Gavaskar: “Tell me, Sunny, your money is on which team winning the World Cup?” It was a straightforward question to someone the journalist knew well and Gavaskar was comfortable talking to. But in a public place where a lot of non-sports people were seen, there were far too many who were awe-struck by the batting icon’s presence. The Little Master guarded — and understandably so among journalists unfamiliar to him — response was: “I’m not the betting kind.”

A drunk scribe — not even from the sports fraternity —and eaves-dropping on our  conversation made the huge mistake in his inebriated state of senselessly asking Gavaskar, “But we heard your uncle bets on matches…” That was it! What one saw was an atomic explosion. People on the road below the five-star may have heard Gavaskar exploding. He gave the worst possible tongue-lashing to the journalist from a non-descript vernacular paper. “Do you know my uncle? Do you know what it means to earn an India cap?” The Gavaskar tempest was seen in full fury — and for what seemed endless. The gathering at conference hall was stunned into silence. Everybody froze. I have seen Gavaskar get angry many, many times, but this took the cake, the bakery and the baker!

Would such a fierce nationalist ever sell his soul and country? Character assassination stories, like the one against Gavaskar, emanate from people who either don’t know him, or have a mischievous agenda to vilify him. And when these bazaar rumours get repeated on social media platforms with nil accountability, they gather ridiculous credence through repetitive sharing.

It remains to be seen how effective Gavaskar will be in his new role — given the paucity of time and the political machinations within the board — in cleaning up the Augean Stables, but one can be sure that he won’t allow hanky-panky stuff to flourish with the impunity it did in the Indian Premier League (IPL). All said and done, the task before him is lot more onerous than facing the likes of Andy Roberts and Michael Holding. The swift opposition from the BCCI to his taking over from N Srinivasan is an indication of what he is up against.

Watch out for political beamers, Sunny!

(H Natarajanformerly 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)

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 21, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Bulawayo

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at St George's, Grenada

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 23, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Hambantota

India tour of England 2014

Aug 25, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Bristol

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 25, 2014 (00:00 IST)   at Basseterre, St Kitts

More

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 20, 2014  at St George's, Grenada

West Indies won by 3 wkts

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 19, 2014  at Bulawayo

South Africa won by 61 runs

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 17, 2014  at Bulawayo

South Africa won by 93 runs

India tour of England 2014

Aug 15, 2014  at London

England won by an innings and 244 runs

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 14, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 105 runs

Photos

Highlights of Mahela Jayawardene’s Test career

Videos

Hughes explains technique behind cut shot

West Indies vs Bangladesh Live Cricket Score, 1st ODI at St George’s: West Indies win by 3 wickets

Len Pascoe: There was a hospital ward named after Jeff Thomson and me

India tour of Australia 2014-15: 5 ways India can avoid another overseas embarrassment

MS Dhoni can benefit from borrowing the ‘Sourav Ganguly School of leadership’

Ravi Shastri inspired confidence as player and captain: Will he do it in a coaching capacity?

England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 Pakistan Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka 2014 Pakistan vs Sri Lanka Pakistan vs Sri Lanka 2014 Sri Lanka Sri Lanka vs Pakistan Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 2014

Rahul Dravid was BCCI’s first choice ahead of Ravi Shastri to oversee Indian ODI team

BCCI willing to give Ravi Shastri blank cheque if he continues till ICC World Cup 2015

Stuart Broad to undergo knee surgery on September 4

West Indies vs Bangladesh 2014: Why West Indies’ victory is statistically significant

West Indies beat Bangladesh by 3 wickets in 1st ODI at Grenada

Alex Hales’ inclusion a positive move by England for ODI series against India

13 things you may not know about Ravi Shastri

India Women vs England Women — Despite Test win, India will face tough challenge in ODI series

Duncan Fletcher speaks out; explains why Team India failed in the Test series against England!

India Women vs England Women ODI series: Test victory should motivate them to improve their ODI record in England

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

659 Posts | 6 Fans

India tour of England 2014: Sunil Gavaskar says Indian batsmen did not learn anything

OnePlus starts hiring in India ahead of launch

How much money has the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised till now?

Connect Broadband launches virus control system

Alex Hales’ inclusion a positive move by England for ODI series against India

Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini suffers ankle ligament damage

Rahul Dravid was BCCI’s first choice ahead of Ravi Shastri to oversee Indian ODI team

Vidya Balan gets caught while watching Salman Khan’s Kick in disguise!

Hrithik Roshan will not romance Jacqueline Fernandez

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here