Posts Tagged ‘Sunil Gavaskar’

We can even change the Constitution to suit our interests! While the Constitution hasn’t been changed in this case, one is trying to understand the rationale behind altering the rules to include sportspersons as Bharat Ratna awardees, just so we can give it to Sachin Tendulkar.

I am a great fan of Tendulkar. He’s one in a hundred million, but to change the rules just so he can be given the Bharat Ratna is not just bizarre, but sets an unhealthy precedent.

Why Sachin, why not others before him who have excelled in their sport? Why not Kapil Dev — arguably India’s greatest allrounder, India’s first World Cup winning captain, superb bowler, powerful batsman and amazing fielder. What he achieved inspired a millions kids, Tendulkar among them, to take to the game in all seriousness.

Or a little farther back, there was Sunil Gavaskar. Diehard cricket fans still believe he was one of the greatest opening batsmen that walked the earth. He took on the might of the West Indies and Australia, and shouldered the responsibility of the Indian team for 16 years. There was a time, when one said if Gavaskar fell, India crumbled. He was the first cricketer to climb the mountain of 10,000 Test runs. Why not him?

Or let’s go even further back in time. How about Dhyan Chand, India’s hockey wizard? It was said people flocked to the grounds around the world just to see Dhyan Chand dribble his way around the opposition.
If he was missing from the line-up, so were the crowds.

Or why not Prakash Padukone? Milkha Singh, Wilson Jones, Geet Sethi, Michael Ferreira, Lala Amarnath, or P.T. Usha? All of them were masters of their universe. The point is — where do we draw the line? As it is, the selections for Bharat Ratna have been mired in controversy.

In 2008, the BJP recommended the name of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BSP of Kanshi Ram, the Leftists of Jyoti Basu and TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu suggested N.T. Rama Rao. In the end there was no award. Now that sportspersons are to be included, will lobbying not start here as well? Tomorrow the likes of Ram Vilas Pawan and Mayawati will want a quota in it!

It’s anyway, nothing but a huge ego boost for the awardee and his or her followers and the hectic lobbying that takes place before the award is announced reduces it to a farce. So let’s just put the Bharat Ratna back where it was these past few years – in cold storage.

What next? Sachin Tendulkar for President?


And I thought Shahid Afridi, was a sensible young man, who had mellowed in the past two years! On June 25, 2009, I had posted something on Afridi and his big mouth, where I had said that he was going around making silly statements like India were scared of playing against Pakistan, instead of trying to mend fences with them. I had also said that he should keep his feet out of the one place where they invariably find themselves – his mouth!

But then after his rather sporting speech at the post-match presentation ceremony at Mohali, I was impressed with his demeanour. I thought he had matured as a skipper, and that Pakistan cricket had finally found Imran’s successor – a serious, yet modern and forward thinking skipper. But judging by his latest ‘boo boo’ nothing’s changed. I can accept his comment that as a Pakistani he feels that his people are more large-hearted than the Indians. We can’t expect everyone to like us. We don’t think much of the Pakistanis, do we? But to say THEY’VE tried to make peace with US for the past 60-odd years and WE’VE always rejected THEIR overtures, is laughable. And then to say that the Indian media was negative is even more laughable. Has he forgotten that it was the Indian media which blasted his minister for the ‘keep away from match-fixing’ comment?

The problem that the Pakistanis have is age-old. It stems from the ‘weight’ of the rather large chip that they’ve been carrying on their shoulders for the past 63 years. I guess Afridi is no different. And I’m not talking politics here. They are simply unable to accept that they have lost to India in every single World Cup they’ve played against us and quite a few other matches in between. It’s not that they are a bad team or inferior to the Indians. They’ve always had better fast bowlers, if not batsmen, so why, when they meet India, do they come a cropper? That and the fact that Indian cricket has everything they don’t – better managed infrastructure, better paid players at all levels, and after the Azharuddin episode, no incidents of match-fixing – is what really pisses them off.

And, so, even as Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani expressed the hope that Indo-Pak cricket matches could be resumed, along came Mr Shahid ‘Big Mouth’ Afridi shooting from the lip. After what he has said about the people of India and against Gautam Gambhir dedicating the win to the victims of 26/11, does he really expect the Indian Government or the BCCI to be in any sort of hurry to resume ties? What did Gambhir say that was offensive? Didn’t Tendulkar dedicate one if his centuries to the Mumbai after the terror attack?

I remember reading in Sunil Gavaskar’s book Sunny Days that in 1971 when war broke out in the subcontinent between the two neighbours, he and Bishen Singh Bedi were playing for the World XI in Australia. They would have dinner every evening with two other players – Mustaqh Mohammed and Intikhab Alam – both Pakistanis and there was no rancour or animosity – in fact they were the best of friends and still are. Afridi should accept that he cannot change history. But it’s really in his hands to change the future. But that won’t happen if he, like some of his predecessors, walks around with that chip on his shoulder.

Green, it would seem for the Pakistanis, is also the colour of envy.

I am an Indian cricket fan too, like the rest of the one billion plus Indians in this country and the numerous others around the world. There was a time when I used to keep a ball-by-ball account of every match India played anywhere in the world; copiously reading up on cricket statistics; pouring over reports on the game from all over the world. As a kid I did not know my multiplication tables from my division, but could tell you Sunil Gavaskar’s batting average to the last decimal! I still lose my cool when I see an Indian wicket fall to a poor shot or a catch being dropped, or even cheer when the opposition drops a catch!

Right now I too have butterflies in my stomach thinking about what could happen tomorrow. Why? Because beating the Pakistanis is what every Indian desperately wants. But, I still treat cricket as a sport to be enjoyed and every match as just as a another match, and not WAR, unlike some of my countrymen, who believe that beating the Pakistanis is like shoving a bayonet into the enemy’s chest.

Some of the vicious comments I’ve been reading in the media and on social networking sites make me wonder whether we are a rational thinking people from a country steeped in the ‘Hindu culture’ or a bunch of psychopaths. Heck, I would be over the moon if India won the match against Pakistan and then the ICC World Cup. Please note I said ‘IF’ and not ‘WHEN’ because in a game with such high stakes and pressure, five overs or a couple of wickets either way, could decide the result.

After Brett Lee got hit on the eye I read some comment on Facebook that said “serves him right”. Serves him right, for what? Playing his heart out for his country? Give the man some credit. He has taken over 800 international wickets, which is a damn sight more than any of the Indian bowlers playing for their team. Our cricket fans should appreciate his bowling instead of denigrating it and should urge our bunch of second-rate (YES SECOND-RATE) medium pacers (with the exception of Zaheer Khan) to learn the art of pace bowling from the great Australian.

Criticising a player for his poor performance is one thing but to ridicule his efforts shows us up for unsportsmanlike behaviour. We (and I don’t mean the cricketers, but a section of the media and a large number of Indian cricket fans) are quick to call the Australians ‘cry babies’. But let’s not forget that until very recently it was the Indians who were always the cry babies. Instead of appreciating the way the Australians played their game and learning from them, we cried about being bullied out. Funnily, isn’t that what Sourav Ganguly did? He played the game the Aussie way and won; and he publicly acknowledged that Steve Waugh was his hero.

As a nation of sports enthusiasts we are poor losers and history is witness to that. Way back in 1974, after Ajit Wadekar’s boys had been thrashed by England 3-0 in a Test series, their homes were stoned and a stone replica of a cricket bat, with the signatures of the team captained by Wadekar that defeated the West Indies and England in 1971, was defaced. This is just one example. Indian skipper Dhoni has also commented that he has stopped caring about the reactions of the Indian cricket fans because by now they have even killed him in their minds, every time his team plays badly! It’s a sad reflection on us as a sports-loving people.

That is why I am APPALLED by the entire jingoistic and intolerant reaction of our cricket fans to our team and any opposition, especially the Pakistanis. A day before the big match, we sound like the same hysterical, frenzied mobs that would take out a knife and stab someone at the slightest provocation. I am surprised that some political party hasn’t yet taken out a procession.

Tomorrow, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for Team India. And I sincerely hope, for the sake of the billions who’ve been thumping their chest and dreaming of annihilation, that they don’t get the unexpected.

I don’t know how many people remember Rajiv Mishra. At seventeen years of age, he was the star of the 1997 Junior World Cup hockey tournament. Even at that age he was touted the fastest thing on two legs on hockey turf. But a knee injury in 1998 at the World Cup camp, found the youngster in the wilderness
Sometime in mid-2000, Sharad Deep, a reporter with Hindustan Times, did a story about how some passengers on a train to Varanasi, found Mishra checking tickets. That was when he learnt of Mishra’s heartrending story. Of how the IHF under the tyrant KPS Gill, which should have nursed the youngster back to health, instead dumped him, and of how a distraught Mishra turned to booze and drank himself to sleep every night.
This reporter convinced Mishra to make a comeback. His view was that, at least, he shouldn’t have any regrets later in life. Mishra tried and failed and went back to checking tickets. But at least he realized it was better than going home drunk every night and crying himself to sleep.
Recently Sharad, (now a Principal Correspondent with the same newspaper) did another story on Mishra. He told me about how the former player was leading a hand-to-mouth existence. His salary was just Rs 15,000 of which around Rs 7,000 went into paying off a housing loan which left him with a measly Rs 7,000 to support himself, his wife and one-year-old daughter. The now defunct IHF still owed him Rs 20,000 incurred by him towards medical expenses. But Hockey India (HI) has so far refused to reimburse that amount or even a penny for his services to Indian hockey.
Sorry folks, in this country loyalty and patriotism do not put food on the table. What use patriotism when former sportspersons either die penniless or are found begging at street corners? With the pittance all sportspersons, except cricketers, are paid by their respective associations, why blame them for demanding more.
And since revolts seem to be the flavour of the season and I’ve been seeing quite a few lately, can we blame the Indian hockey players for staging one too? I completely agree with them for refusing to play until they are paid everything they are owed and also get compensated for representing their country. Especially when corrupt officials are lining their pockets with the funds meant for the sport.
“You’re playing for the country” is a very diplomatic way of saying if you don’t get paid for your troubles don’t complain. I’m OK with that to the extent that these rules be applied on everyone across the board without ANY exceptions. Will officials follow suit? Will they travel economy class and stay in sports hostels along with the team? Can officials use that as an excuse and deliberately withhold payment, while they enjoy five-star comforts, booze parties and demand sexual favours from female athletes in return for a place in the Indian squad?
Then there is this cockeyed argument that even abroad players are not paid for representing their country. Abroad, sportspersons have a support system backed by the government. They are assured jobs, medical benefits for them and their families, free education, and are not found begging on the streets and sleeping on pavements, unless they themselves press the self destruct button.
Incidentally, Sahara India had revised its annual contract with the Hockey India in October last year with a 30 per cent raise for Rs 1.78 crore. During the Asia Cup in Hyderabadsome months ago, the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation sponsored the tournament for Rs 50 lakh. What did HI do with the money?
They paid Rs 15 lakh to a shady event management company, which made a complete mess of the arrangements there. A reporter who was there told me that every evening the event management company organized a booze session at a fancy hotel for officials and scribes. That was the main item on their agenda. He told me a lot more scandalising stuff, which I cannot repeat here, for fear of being sued!
Some years ago a newspaper featured a picture of the captain of the Indian hockey team on the over-bridge at Ludhiana railway station, unrecognized. He was carrying his bags, his hockey stick and was on his way home. No one even knew he was. India had just lost a major international tournament and the captain had lost his job. He was going back to his life in obscurity at some police station in Punjab.
P.S. I just learnt from a friend that Sahara has released Rs one crore to be distributed immediately to the hockey players. Some good sense has finally prevailed.

I first heard a ball-by-ball cricket commentary on my radio when the Australian team was playing in India in 1969. Their names fascinated me – Stackpole, Redpath, Chappell, Gleeson, Lawry, Mallett, Mckenzie. I guess that was the day I was hooked to cricket and more so to Australian cricket.

When everyone was blasting the Australian team of the 1970s and 80s, for their on-field and off-field antics under Ian Chappell and later under Greg Chappell, I marvelled at their determination to win at any cost. To me they were then and are still the most exciting cricket team in the world. Everybody else is yards behind.

I remember Ian Chappell and his bowlers being criticized for snarling at the English cricketers during the Ashes series in 1974-75 and the following year in England. Just before the 1974-75 Ashes series in Australia, Jeff Thomson was quoted as saying that he liked to see blood on the pitch and batsman writhing on the floor in pain. It was an outrageous comment by any standards, but it had the desired effect. The Englishmen were terrified of facing Thommo and by the time Test series started they were literally backing away from the pitch every time Thomson and Lillee ran in to bowl. They had to win, social niceties be damned.

The following year, members of the Australian team were seen on the balcony of the dressing room in a mock fight, stripping a player to the waist in full public view of the spectators. Ian Chappell was asked about his team’s behavior and his cryptic comment was “What happens off the field should stay off the field!” The Pommies were left fuming at the arrogance of the Australians, but the latter couldn’t have cared less.

I know I’m painting myself in a corner, but I’ve always admired the Australian cricket team for the manner in which they’ve played their cricket. So they are brash, foul-mouthed, cussed, but who cares? At the end of the day they show results and that’s what matters.

I was going through the Australian cricket team’s records on the other day and was marvelling at their consistency over the last 140-odd years. 713 Test matches played and 332 wins, that’s a 46.56 per cent win record, and a loss percentage of 26.08, which is fantastic. In one-day internationals Australia has played 726 matches, won 448 and lost 247 with a win percentage of 64.29.

Now look at India’s Test record: 430 Tests; 99 won with a win percentage of 23.02 and a loss percentage of 31.62.In one-day internationals, in which Indians are supposedly second to the Australians, the record is: Played: 727; Won: 351; Lost: 340, with a 50.79 win percentage. They’ve lost as many matches as they have won.

So when I hear this crap by some of my friends in the media about how India is just a step away from becoming No 1 in world cricket, it makes me laugh. They should ask themselves whether the Indian cricket team really deserves the title. Can India ever be as consistent as the Australians have been over a period of say ten years? From Don Bradman to Ricky Ponting, it has been the focus of every Australian captain to ensure that his team is the best in the world – come what may. It’s a lesson the Indian cricket team and its bosses could do well to learn if they want to EVER be called a great team.

Which Indian captain, with the exception of Sourav Ganguly for a brief while, has made an effort in that direction? It’s not a matter of winning all major tournaments in a year. It’s a matter of winning all major tournaments year after year, for the next ten years! If they can do that, Team India can be called ‘great’. With such a talented bunch of individuals in their midst it’s surprising that the Indians fail to click as a team, except on those rare occasions. And we make it worse by calling anyone or anything ‘great’. Then we expect them to live up to that epithet and crucify them when they fail.

Honestly, there is just one player in this team on whom the title of ‘great’ sits with ease and we all know who that is – the rest of them are all bad copies of the originals we have seen down the ages. As a matter of fact, I’ll stick my neck out to say that there are just a handful of players in the last 40 years who can be called ‘great’ – Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, and Sourav Ganguly. That’s it. The others have a long way to go, before they can be placed alongside these five – if ever.

So when I heard our pea-brained experts saying on the idiot box before the series started that the injury-hit Australians would be easy meat against the in-form Indians, I was amazed. The Australians are NEVER easy meat and more so an Australian team that’s being written off. So it didn’t surprise me in the least when they rubbed the Indians’ noses to the ground. And mind you, on paper this Australian team is second-string. If this is what a second-string team can do, it speaks volumes for the class of the Indians.

The Australian media has rightly called the Indians ‘upstarts’. Frankly, with the exception of Sachin Tendulkar and to some extent Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the rest of them aren’t worth the big bucks they are paid. They are not great, they just grate.

Attending former cricket selection committee chief, Chandu Borde’s felicitation on Tuesday, at the Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir and the dinner after that at Hotel Blue Diamond brought back some lovely memories – my first taste of this beautiful game called cricket, seeing some of the cricketing greats at the strangest of places, and then as a sports journalist covering cricket for over 16 years, going for international matches and tournaments like the World Cup.

Chandu Borde, for all those too young to remember, was India’s ‘Mr. Dependable’ – he could bat, bowl and field – and there weren’t too many of them around. My friend babu kalyanpur, (that’s how he likes to write his name), now with Gulf Daily News, and easily one of the most knowledgeable cricket writers around, once told me that Borde is one of the unsung heroes of Indian cricket, who never got his due.

He should have been captain, but the powers-that-be believed that captaincy was the preserve of those who were good with their interpersonal skills not just their cricket. The feeling then was that only Oxford or Cambridge educated nobility could make good captains – or if you were from Shivaji Park or Dadar Gymkhana. Thank God that colonial mentality has changed, or Kapil Dev would never have become captain and we might never have won the Prudential Cup in 1983!

As Ajit Wadekar spoke about Borde at the function, all those memories of my cricket madness came flooding back. I remember huddling over a Murphy Radio in 1969 listening to Raju Bharatan and Pearson Surita referring to Redpath, Chappell, Walters, Stackpole (it sounded like Tadpole), Gleason, Mckenzie. What were they — some form of exotic food or people? I learned that these were cricket players from Australia. I remember meeting former Australian opener Keith Stackpole in Pune during the 1996 World Cup and telling him that it was his name that got me hooked to cricket. He laughed uproariously.

When ‘Shandra’ (what one of India’s greatest spinners, B.S. Chandrashekhar, was referred to as over the Beeb by famed commentator John Arlott) spun his web around England at The Oval in England, a lot of us were at home, ears straining to catch the commentary over Short Wave, waiting for that magical moment. We roared in delight when Eknath Solkar (will there be another fielder like him?) plucked the ball just before it dropped to the ground, a few feet from England wicket-keeper Alan Knott’s bat. I think we knew then that India was within smelling distance of history. I think a lot of us cried that day – it was that kind of a feeling. Totally indescribable.

Then Ajit Wadekar and his boys reached Bombay and I read about the welcome at the airport and revelled in the feeling – like I was there, like I was a part of it. So when in December 1971 in Delhi when my mother asked me if I wanted to watch a cricket match on TV at her friend’s place, I jumped at it! I had never seen a TV in my life before leave alone a cricket match. I watched the India-England Test match being played at the Feroz Shah Kotla, on a black and white TV set. It was an amazing experience. We lost the Test and I was shattered. How could these champions lose to a second string England team?

Cricket soon became an obsession. I was compiling notebooks and albums of cricket pictures and statistics. I would follow cricket matches over the radio ball by ball, copiously writing down scores and records, calculating averages. I remember my mother telling someone that I could calculate Sunil Gavaskar’s batting average to the last decimal, but ask me to do multiplication and I was lost!

I remember going on a school picnic to Lonavala, and as we were buying chikki at a store a man came up and told us, “If you want to see cricketers come with me.” In excitement we followed him to a luxury bus parked at the side of the road. There was the hero of the Oval Test, Eknath Solkar along with a lot of other Indian players. Imagine seeing these guys up, close, in the flesh!

Cut to the mid-1970s and we were standing at Jangli Maharaj Road opposite Khyber Restaurant, in Pune. We were waiting for all the snazzy sports cars participating in the London-Sydney Rally that were supposed to pass from there. As we waited I looked around and saw this tall man next to me talking to someone on his left. I could barely suppress my excitement. My friends noticed him too and we began whispering loudly – too loudly – because he looked at us and smiled. We couldn’t believe our luck. That was all we needed. Note books and pens came out in a flash and all of us watched in wonder as he signed his name in our books. Our day was made.

Our presence had been acknowledged by none other than Chandu Borde!