Sunil Gavaskar July 10, 2009

'I speak from the heart, not the head'

Interview by Ayaz Memon
The great Indian opener, 60 today, talks about the game then and now, temperament over technique, sledging, and more
44

How differently do you see this game at 60 from the way you saw it at 20?
It is different in the sense that there is a much wider following than in the 1960s, when I was growing up. Then it was a majority male following, but now I think it's fairly mixed. You've got women of all ages interested in the game, thanks to the Twenty20 mainly.

Would you have been happier playing today than when you played? With far more money, and fame.
Maybe not, for the simple reason that there was an innocence about the game when I was kid, which is perhaps not quite there now. I think I would prefer the innocence of the game that was there when I was a teenager.

Earlier, cricket was not just a sport. It was also about the great qualities of life it represented. Has there been a fundamental shift in the way people approach the game today?
Not to a great extent. But for instance, when people didn't do the right thing, the saying used was "That's not cricket". Now that does not hold as much water as it did then. Mainly because, I think, the game has become commercial and therefore some of the old values have gone out of it. But it's still a fantastic game. I think it is a far more attractive game to watch from a spectator's point of view.

Has the romance of cricket fallen victim to money?
Well, I guess it's now a win-at-all-cost system. The unpleasant things that happen in the game have come to the fore, so therefore I think in a sense the romance is gone. The appreciation of the game, whether it was by your own team or by the opposition, is not quite so much. You rarely see fielders go up to applaud somebody getting a half-century any more. Players are aware that the TV cameras are on them. So they might have just one clap and that's it - almost as if to say that if you have more than two or three claps for the opposition, then it's a kind of weakness. I don't think that's a correct thing.

Has technique become redundant or superfluous? Look at Virender Sehwag and Adam Gilchrist and the kind of success they have enjoyed. Do you think this is the modern approach to cricket?
I have always believed that technique has never been a huge part of sport. Temperament is your No. 1 thing. You could have the best technique in the world, but if your temperament is bad, you'll be nowhere. While if the temperament is good and you don't have great technique, you will be able to do well. You have the ability inside you which makes you hang in there, makes you go on. That's what separates the men from the boys.

So does approach, upbringing and the attitude towards the game. The difference in the style that you see from the 1950s, 60s or 70s is the upbringing. In those days [you were told] not to hit the ball in the air, not to take risks. Coaches today encourage youngsters to play aerial shots or unorthodox shots, try different things. That is what has made the game so attractive.

What is the biggest issue confronting the game today?
The gap that is developing between some of the Test-playing countries and the others. A few Test-playing countries have developed fantastic cricket, while others have stagnated or gone down. Now that is the biggest challenge - to be able to make all the 10 Test-playing countries into pretty much equal cricketing powers. That is never going to happen. But even if you have six countries, that will be a big step forward.

"I have always believed that technique has never been a huge part of sport. Temperament is your No. 1 thing"

In recent times you have been a vehement critic of on-field sledging.
I have never been against banter. But sledging is nothing really but abuse of the opposition. Sometimes players get away saying things to the opposition on the field that they would never get away with saying to anybody off the field. One day this might lead to a physical confrontation on the field. Why do you want get to that stage?

Are you trying to tell me the Bradmans, the Benauds, the Cowdreys, the Soberses did that? They didn't. There might be a joke or two, where even the butt of the joke laughs. A little gamesmanship did not affect us either. Today it is not that.

I don't mind the four-letter word thrown into a sentence. That's not a problem at all. It's when the "you so and so" gets in there that it becomes personal. That is what I feel is an absolutely unnecessary part of the game. We never heard the Merchants, Hazares, Amarnaths ever say anything abusive to their mates, so why should it happen here?

You were like a one-man spearhead, especially against England and Australia, in several matters, as player and even later. Was this part of some deep-seated anti-colonialism in you?
Not at all. I have been vocal about it because I have seen it happening. It was happening increasingly, so I've spoken about it. Those who say that this is a part of the game are talking nonsense. Banter yes, abuse no.

Do you sense some kind of resentment to India's rise to power, at least financial power?
No, I don't think so. That's not a factor at all. You just want the game to be a good sport at the end of it without people abusing each other.

Let me explain. The Roger Federer versus Andy Roddick 2009 Wimbledon final was an epic game. If Roddick serves at 120 miles per hour, Federer trying to hit a backhand gets the top edge of the racket and the ball lands on the baseline, allowing Federer to get an absolutely fluky lucky point. Would Roddick abuse Federer because of the luck that he has? Then why should a bowler stand at his end and abuse a batsman who got an inside edge that went to the boundary, or who played and missed half a dozen times? Federer and Roddick are playing for a major title and for millions of pounds, for rankings and stuff like that. Why should it be different in cricket? Why go for wild abuse in a match? That's wrong. The game will be better off without all this. It's also a bad influence on young, upcoming players watching on television.

Did something early in your career provoke these sentiments against sledging?
It happened to me only once. I was staggered that a player who was making his debut in Tests - and I was well past 100 Tests at the time - stood at the end of his follow-through after I had cut him over slips for a boundary and swore at me. I couldn't believe it. That was probably the only occasion.

What do you think about the Twenty20-versus-Tests debate? Is Test cricket under threat?
I don't think Test cricket is under threat. It has been there for more than 100 years. Test cricket will become far more attractive as it became after the advent of one-day cricket. We saw more results, less dot-balls, and it became far more result-oriented. The same thing will happen with the influence of Twenty20. There will be a lot more runs scored in a day than earlier, which means plenty of results and more excitement for viewers at the ground and on television.

You don't see the demise of bowlers, as some players predict?
Look at the way the bowlers have come back in the Twenty20 game. They have learnt how to bowl, what fields to set, and suddenly they have got clobbered less. They will get occasionally clobbered by good batsmen, but they are also striking back. In the ICC World Twenty20, bowlers probably got as many players-of-the-match awards as batsmen or allrounders.

You first played Tests for India 40 years ago. Is there anything you would do differently now?
There are a couple things I would obviously want to do if given another chance. Like our World Cup match [1975], where I got 36 not out. I would throw my wicket away now - which I wasn't brought up to do. Earlier on, the mindset was different. I think today I might feel a little more flexible as far as throwing-a-wicket-type situation is concerned.

Even in the Melbourne incident, where I was provoked into asking Chetan [Chauhan] to leave the field, let me clarify that this decision was not taken at first but when I was making my way back to the pavilion and was almost 10 yards down when I was abused by the Australians. That's when I came back and took Chetan away. I wouldn't come back to do this today, because as a captain, whatever the provocation, I should have kept my cool. Yes, these are the two things I would have definitely changed.

People feel that SMG is mellowing and then some new controversy comes up. Have you mellowed or not?
[Laughs] I don't know… If I feel strongly about something, I say it. The problem is I haven't learnt to use my head when I speak or I write, despite doing it for all these years. I still feel with my heart and say something and then a storm is created. Using words that cause little or no offence is a creative activity. But I write or speak from the heart and not the head.

But you can deal with criticism better now?
Because I no longer feel the pressures of performing.

When is the definitive autobiography coming?
Maybe I am writing too much. I have got columns and match reports, so maybe that's dulled the need to write. Besides, my first autobiography [Sunny Days] created a storm. Again I used my heart and not my head. Perhaps the usage of words could have conveyed the same meaning without causing offence. So if I have to write a definitive book, it would have to be honest. Some big reputations might get a bit of a dent once again. So why…

You have never pushed your son Rohan, but do you have any sense of disappointment that he could not go the distance with the India cap?
Look, I wanted him to be a good human being. For me that was the most important thing. Being a cricketer or a doctor, engineer, journalist was his choice. I just wanted him to be content with what he was. All the feedback that I get from all those who have interacted with him is nothing but positive, which pleases me no end. As far as his cricket is concerned, I keep teasing him all the time that his father used up all the luck and that's why he didn't have much left for him.

You batted perfectly in your career; you believe in structures and systems and temperament and in the hard logic of batting technique - everything to suggest that you are a very rational person. How do you explain your strong faith and trust in Sai Baba?
If I tried to go deep into that, I don't think people would understand. For me, he is everything. He is the ultimate. Just thinking of him gives me such a sense of completeness, such a sense of well-being. And the knowledge that he is looking after me is such a great sense of comfort, not just for me but also my whole family. It is hard to really describe it.

"There are a couple of things I would do different, if I had the chance - the 36 not out and the Melbourne incident in 1981. These are the two things I would have definitely changed."

You have been pretty much identified as a loner, a man who lived in his own world as a player, even though cricket is a team game. But you do have a lot of friends.
If you meet my buddies or friends whom I hang out with, they'll give you a different picture. Even during my playing days. It is an image. if you play serious and risk-free cricket, the image you get is different. Even when I played, due to my prankster habits, I really got into trouble with some of my seniors. That's a part which wasn't seen by anybody. There was no media explosion like now. I thank God for it.

You have said in your book that the Indian dressing room wasn't the best place to be in.
Yes, maybe on an occasion or during an odd Test match or a series. But 99.9% of the time it was an absolute honour to share the room with my team-mates and play for the country. For all those guys who went out and gave it their best - it was a great honour to play with them. The happiest moments have been off the field. When I went to Hyderabad in the 1980s and saw Shivlal Yadav's house. To see Roger's [Binny] or Gundappa's [Viswanath] house gave me a lot of pleasure. They gave it everything, just like everyone else in the team, but they didn't get the endorsements or rewards that Kapil [Dev] or I got, or to an extent Ravi [Shastri] and Dilip [Vengsarkar] got. But believe you me, their contribution is no less than ours. If they hadn't been in the Indian dressing room and on the field then we wouldn't have been able to do half of what we did.

So when you look back at the 70s and 80s, some of the old enmities have been sandpapered and smoothed out?
Yes they are. To a great extent this was perception or speculation, not anything serious. People weren't that close to the scene and just got bits and pieces and jumped to their own conclusions. This doesn't happen only in cricket. We are all always waiting for a good story about something bad about others. I would look at it like that.

At one point of time you were considered to be a mercenary, yet you had the great ability to completely separate your mental processes when you went out to bat. Was this difficult?
I don't accept to being a mercenary. I didn't play for people simply because they paid me money. Yes, I spoke on behalf of the players, for what the players' body or the fraternity felt. For a better deal. I expressed myself maybe because they made me the spokesperson and then when I became the captain I was automatically the spokesperson of the team. I did take up their issues.

Even today, you speak to cricket officials and explain to them, you will be surprised how much they will do it for you. You have to be completely articulate. The administrators were happy to listen to us. We also learnt that having told them to do something, we had to be patient about it, so I don't think there was a too much of a problem.

Who would you pick as the all-time greats who came after your retirement who you would have loved to play against?
Tendulkar and Lara are the first who come to mind. Then of course Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, and Wasim Akram are some who also would be right up there. Another one would be Anil Kumble. He is such an unassuming player, with 600-plus wickets and the records that he has. He is a fantastic cricketer.

Once, you were seen as anti-establishment. Now you're on the governing council of the IPL and close to the BCCI, though now out of the ICC…
Cricket is my life. It is heaven, therefore, to be a part of it or do something for the game. [To be with the] ICC was a huge honour and privilege. Despite all that, if I do feel something strongly, I still say it. See, here I go again with my heart leading my head.

Ayaz Memon is editor at large with DNA, where this interview was first published

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • truthspeaker on July 12, 2009, 5:11 GMT

    Those who critisize Sunny as selfish need to introspect - when Sunny played, often he was the lone batsman to carry the bat - During Sunny's times, it was very common for India to cave in to oppostion meekly and Sunny staged several miracles to save India from embarassment

    Often, when you are the only performer in a team, how can one be selfless - the realization sinks in that you are more valuable than others - so, some selfishness is inevitable

    the fact, Gavaskar is so proud of India and Indians is remarkable - we have average cricketers todaywho walk with a swagger and with millions in bank and yet no where comparable to Sunny - are these cricketers are so team conscious and gentleman cricketers - we all know the command wielded by Sunny before and after retirement

    let us wholeheartedly admire this fantastic cricketer from India

  • greatgaryfan on July 11, 2009, 23:01 GMT

    Guys, I am dying to see a video of SG's innings in B'lore vs Pakistan on that turning track. If anyone has a copy, please post it on Youtube for everyone to enjoy

  • SUNDOS on July 11, 2009, 12:16 GMT

    For those from my generation who grew up on SMG's exploits,he was more than cricket.The first world class Indian player,who stood up to fast bowling,taught us that there was honour in a drawn match,but mostly,the world record holder till it was bettered by others.Wish you a very happy Birthday and hope you keep playing a nifty badminton game,and speaking your mind.There is no doubt that cricket and Indian cricket havent had a better spokesman.

  • henchart on July 11, 2009, 7:18 GMT

    Gavaskar's knock against Pakistan in his last test at Bangalore was a lesson on how to play on a minefield of a pitch .Thank God such pitches are not preparedthese days!Unfortunately Gavaskar's effort in that match ended in a losing cause but he won many hearts.Tendulakr played somewhat similar knock against PAk at Madras and that was also a losing effort. Gavaskar and Tendulkar are both masters of their era and also not the most selfless of cricketers.

  • resmyrakri on July 11, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    Let me wish happy birth day to the greatest ever openerfirst. His era was different. with no helmmet and high quality bowlers. He was not as recognised as murderous Viv. Ofcourse the great bowlers of that era knows how difficult it was to dismiss him. During that time unless you score runs against Engalnd you wont be recognised. He showed courage to fight against them and refused membership in MCC owing to the same reason of their imperialism or colonialism or whatever.Often he was lone fighter in the team and outside.

  • HarishVembu on July 11, 2009, 5:25 GMT

    Its a great honour to hear from one of the greats of World Cricket.

    Admired for his perfect and sound technique.

    Defnitely from old school.

    Look at his words in the interview. The few things that stood are

    innocence of the game that has been lost, good sportmanship,anti -sledging how it kills the good spirit, romance for the game.

    Best wishes and Long Life Sir.

    Personally I like his and teammates love for playing for the country.

    Dream to meet you once in real life.

    Best Regards

    Harish

  • truthspeaker on July 11, 2009, 4:36 GMT

    Dear Sunny, thinking of your contribution to world cricket makes me speechless - you were the epitome of grace, poise, beauty and art - when you played Imran at his best and when you played Marshall at his fiery best, or Lillee for that matter you showed who the boss was - If cricket ever had scholarly stalwarts you and Kumble come to mind - Bradman may have misse dyou in his best eleven, but you are incomparable

    As and Indian I am so proud of living in the same era as you - your devotion to Sai Baba endears me more to you - You are simply an asset of the highest order - I have met you on cricket match eves at Hotels and on grounds - If I ever get a chance to garland you that would be my greatest achievement - long life to your SMG and you deserve a SIR title

  • CricketGaur on July 11, 2009, 3:51 GMT

    Dear SMG

    I am am old follower of the game and started watching ur innings fromworldcup 1983. and wanted to tell you i have not missed a single innings of yours. I dnt know how many times i have cried after you got out and how many times i have ran around the corner after u reaching any milestone. The day you were supposed to complete 10000 runs in test cricket I bunked school and watched it.

    Later when you started your career as commentetor I will listen to you for hours

    I will just say you are a perfectionist in all things you do. I had a copy of Cricket Samrat which was published as Sunny edition after you completed 1000o runs. I would have gone piler to post to collect your phots and posters in late 80's. wish you all The best and may you live 100 more years and guide the cricket to the best way

  • thenkabail on July 11, 2009, 1:50 GMT

    Lot of Cricketers are compared with Sunny. But in truth he is incomparable. Yes, he is certainly greater than Tendulkar as well. Gavaskas had everything: techniques, composure, style, strokes, footwork, wristwork.....you can go on. Tendulkar hs all these too. But, have you seen how many times Tendulkar gets hit on helmet?. Also, techniquewise there is no match. Gavaskar was perfect, Tendulkar near-perfect. Indeed, Gavaskar is the greatest cricketer India ever produced, followed by Kapil dev, and then Tendulkar. Watching Gavaskar bat was like watching perfection. He was all science and all art. Tendulkar's batting does not have the same beauty nor same level of science. Ofcouse, Tedulkar at peak had great eye-hand-foot coordination and he could hit any shot at anytime. But then, same can be said of Gavaskat of 1976-1980. But Tedulkar (the greatest batsman of modern times) never played fierce fast bowling with skill and beauty like Sunny. Prasad

  • VDubey on July 10, 2009, 20:19 GMT

    Dear Gavaskar sir,

    You are right there with the best bastsmen this world has ever seen. Your focus on basics, work ethics and love for your nation is for everyone to emulate. I still remember the Banglore knock in '87, only you could have played it. I was not even born when you played some of your best cricket. Listening to your commentary makes me feel like a student listening to a very good finance professor. Happy Birthday Sunny!

    Vikas

  • truthspeaker on July 12, 2009, 5:11 GMT

    Those who critisize Sunny as selfish need to introspect - when Sunny played, often he was the lone batsman to carry the bat - During Sunny's times, it was very common for India to cave in to oppostion meekly and Sunny staged several miracles to save India from embarassment

    Often, when you are the only performer in a team, how can one be selfless - the realization sinks in that you are more valuable than others - so, some selfishness is inevitable

    the fact, Gavaskar is so proud of India and Indians is remarkable - we have average cricketers todaywho walk with a swagger and with millions in bank and yet no where comparable to Sunny - are these cricketers are so team conscious and gentleman cricketers - we all know the command wielded by Sunny before and after retirement

    let us wholeheartedly admire this fantastic cricketer from India

  • greatgaryfan on July 11, 2009, 23:01 GMT

    Guys, I am dying to see a video of SG's innings in B'lore vs Pakistan on that turning track. If anyone has a copy, please post it on Youtube for everyone to enjoy

  • SUNDOS on July 11, 2009, 12:16 GMT

    For those from my generation who grew up on SMG's exploits,he was more than cricket.The first world class Indian player,who stood up to fast bowling,taught us that there was honour in a drawn match,but mostly,the world record holder till it was bettered by others.Wish you a very happy Birthday and hope you keep playing a nifty badminton game,and speaking your mind.There is no doubt that cricket and Indian cricket havent had a better spokesman.

  • henchart on July 11, 2009, 7:18 GMT

    Gavaskar's knock against Pakistan in his last test at Bangalore was a lesson on how to play on a minefield of a pitch .Thank God such pitches are not preparedthese days!Unfortunately Gavaskar's effort in that match ended in a losing cause but he won many hearts.Tendulakr played somewhat similar knock against PAk at Madras and that was also a losing effort. Gavaskar and Tendulkar are both masters of their era and also not the most selfless of cricketers.

  • resmyrakri on July 11, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    Let me wish happy birth day to the greatest ever openerfirst. His era was different. with no helmmet and high quality bowlers. He was not as recognised as murderous Viv. Ofcourse the great bowlers of that era knows how difficult it was to dismiss him. During that time unless you score runs against Engalnd you wont be recognised. He showed courage to fight against them and refused membership in MCC owing to the same reason of their imperialism or colonialism or whatever.Often he was lone fighter in the team and outside.

  • HarishVembu on July 11, 2009, 5:25 GMT

    Its a great honour to hear from one of the greats of World Cricket.

    Admired for his perfect and sound technique.

    Defnitely from old school.

    Look at his words in the interview. The few things that stood are

    innocence of the game that has been lost, good sportmanship,anti -sledging how it kills the good spirit, romance for the game.

    Best wishes and Long Life Sir.

    Personally I like his and teammates love for playing for the country.

    Dream to meet you once in real life.

    Best Regards

    Harish

  • truthspeaker on July 11, 2009, 4:36 GMT

    Dear Sunny, thinking of your contribution to world cricket makes me speechless - you were the epitome of grace, poise, beauty and art - when you played Imran at his best and when you played Marshall at his fiery best, or Lillee for that matter you showed who the boss was - If cricket ever had scholarly stalwarts you and Kumble come to mind - Bradman may have misse dyou in his best eleven, but you are incomparable

    As and Indian I am so proud of living in the same era as you - your devotion to Sai Baba endears me more to you - You are simply an asset of the highest order - I have met you on cricket match eves at Hotels and on grounds - If I ever get a chance to garland you that would be my greatest achievement - long life to your SMG and you deserve a SIR title

  • CricketGaur on July 11, 2009, 3:51 GMT

    Dear SMG

    I am am old follower of the game and started watching ur innings fromworldcup 1983. and wanted to tell you i have not missed a single innings of yours. I dnt know how many times i have cried after you got out and how many times i have ran around the corner after u reaching any milestone. The day you were supposed to complete 10000 runs in test cricket I bunked school and watched it.

    Later when you started your career as commentetor I will listen to you for hours

    I will just say you are a perfectionist in all things you do. I had a copy of Cricket Samrat which was published as Sunny edition after you completed 1000o runs. I would have gone piler to post to collect your phots and posters in late 80's. wish you all The best and may you live 100 more years and guide the cricket to the best way

  • thenkabail on July 11, 2009, 1:50 GMT

    Lot of Cricketers are compared with Sunny. But in truth he is incomparable. Yes, he is certainly greater than Tendulkar as well. Gavaskas had everything: techniques, composure, style, strokes, footwork, wristwork.....you can go on. Tendulkar hs all these too. But, have you seen how many times Tendulkar gets hit on helmet?. Also, techniquewise there is no match. Gavaskar was perfect, Tendulkar near-perfect. Indeed, Gavaskar is the greatest cricketer India ever produced, followed by Kapil dev, and then Tendulkar. Watching Gavaskar bat was like watching perfection. He was all science and all art. Tendulkar's batting does not have the same beauty nor same level of science. Ofcouse, Tedulkar at peak had great eye-hand-foot coordination and he could hit any shot at anytime. But then, same can be said of Gavaskat of 1976-1980. But Tedulkar (the greatest batsman of modern times) never played fierce fast bowling with skill and beauty like Sunny. Prasad

  • VDubey on July 10, 2009, 20:19 GMT

    Dear Gavaskar sir,

    You are right there with the best bastsmen this world has ever seen. Your focus on basics, work ethics and love for your nation is for everyone to emulate. I still remember the Banglore knock in '87, only you could have played it. I was not even born when you played some of your best cricket. Listening to your commentary makes me feel like a student listening to a very good finance professor. Happy Birthday Sunny!

    Vikas

  • Xcrictic on July 10, 2009, 18:41 GMT

    For me Gavaskar, Saurav Ganguly are of a different league as far a India is concerned. They both are selfish, but when it comes to the team (or a part of team they like) they will fight for them with any kind of opponents, they may be teams or boards or coaches or officials.... verbally or walk-out-way... if necessary. I don't mind if he were to be a selfish guy of his own kind in this process.

    I love Gavaskar.

  • Ray24 on July 10, 2009, 18:18 GMT

    I have very standards when judging a cricketer and calling them a great. Sunil Gavaskar easily makes my list of great cricketers. As a cricket commentator too, I've held him in high regard as well. I cannot agree more with edward_smythe that Indian cricket owes a lot to him - he has really rallied them even after his retirement, instilling self-belief. All this coming from a Pakistani cricket supporter! I remember when Pakistan were down and almost out of the 1992 WC, Sunny kept on saying that they should not be counted out - remarkable reader of the game. I remember how he guided India to defend 125 against Pak in Sharjah, led them to the mini-world cup victory. Hi Bangalore innings was fantastic (although Id love to hear him respond to the question - how many times was he out before he was given?). All in all a great player, a great sportsman and a pride for cricket. May you continue to serve cricket for many more years.

  • kaiser1 on July 10, 2009, 18:05 GMT

    Mr Gavaskar is the greatest of all the Indians beside Kapil Dev I respect so much. He is the true legend and hero of Indian cricket I would love to meet. Anyway when his son Rohan Gavaskar played in Hong Kong sixes in 2002 I took the privilege to have his autograph being the son of Sunil Gavaskar. I have seen his numerous memorable test innings since 1983 live on TV when he visited Pakistan as an Indian squad member till his last test innings in Bangalore against Pakistan 1n 1986 alongside his last one day innings where he scored a maiden Ton against NZL in Reliance WC 1987. I loved his commentary and insight into cricket. Happy Birth Day Great Sunil Gavaskar and many happy returns of the day. Amen!

  • henchart on July 10, 2009, 16:42 GMT

    As it happens in case of Illustrious personalities-their sons and daughters have to perennially bear the cross of their success if not their failure.Rohan is no exception.Abhishekh Bachchan too comes to mind though he is in a different field.

  • Dibyo_Basu on July 10, 2009, 16:41 GMT

    Happy birthday Mr Gavaskar, if you do read this. There was a time when I would walk away from the TV after you got out ! Has been an absolute pleasure watching you play and reading what you write.

  • henchart on July 10, 2009, 16:34 GMT

    Gavaskar never had the flamboyance of Richards,grace of Vishwanath or elegance of Zaheer Abbas but the little master had more of what all the batsmen of his era put together -power of concentration and near flawless technique.It is unfair to compare batsmen from different era but I would still rate him a notch higher than Lara,Ponting and Sachin simply because not only did he play half is career without helmet and during no limit per bouncer an over times but also he was a virtual lone ranger of an opener carrying the fortunes of his team single handedly.Roberts,Garner,Marshall,Holding ,Lillee,Thomson,Hadlee,Botham,Willis, Imran,Sarfaraz,Croft and Akram all bowed to this man's batting ability more than once.Happy returns of the day Sir.

  • Santhana on July 10, 2009, 16:29 GMT

    To me Sunil Gavaskar is still the best player for India in saving test matches. In today's environment, he would have stck in to the wicket and forge a partnership with attacking batsman to win the game. I was very happy to not that Sunny Gavaskar would like to change two things "world cup knock and the chetan chauhan incident".

    I wish he could have mentioned about the David Hookes thing as well. I really lost some respect for him when he spoke about the Hookes' accidental death.

    Regards, Santhana from California, USA

  • FordIkon2 on July 10, 2009, 16:28 GMT

    Wish you happy birthday Mr. Gavaskar. I am not priviledged to see you play live, but occasionally catch-up with some old videos on sports channels. Happy for all your achievements over the years. More happy because I am getting a copy of your autobiography 'SMG' courtesy NDTV.

  • pvmenon on July 10, 2009, 15:51 GMT

    I liked the comments from BINGOHALEY.I too felt Gavaskar was always playing for himself than the team.As he mentioned in the comments one could go on and on with many incidents. Even after his playing days he is always playing for the gallery while critisizing some cricketers(old and new)as if he is the ultimate in batsmenship and he knows everything about cricket. To keep his position in BCCI he will go to any length and make sure he is financially benifitted.

  • mautan on July 10, 2009, 15:16 GMT

    Happy Birthday sir! May god give you as many years as you want. To this day Sunil Gavaskar is one of the most humble human being that I have seen or met. With his achivements he could easily have been big headed, but even when I played against him in 87 in a friendly encounter, he was amazingly humble. We were a top college team in Bombay and after the game he come into our dressing room and chatted with everyone....what a surreal experience! He should stop explaining the Melbourne incident though....he did nothing wrong. We all know that he was provoked, we all know how the Aussies behave on field. Whatever you did sir, you always had India first and foremost in mind. May god bless you and a million thanks from me, my friends, family for providing memories that we will cherish throughout our lives.Thankyou sir.

  • edward_smythe on July 10, 2009, 14:59 GMT

    I really believe that the balance of power in world cricket started shifting the day Sunny took to the cricket field. It was his influence that made India into a truly professional team, and Kapil, Saurav and Dhoni could not have made the difference they did without the foundation laid by Sunny.

    So as much as it chafes me every time Sunny spins out yet another anti-colonial rant, I know that he is right to a great degree (just have a look at the MCC and their reaction to 20-20!). It was his courage on and off the field that first pushed cricket into the modern age, where cricketers and fans, not ossified symbols of obsolescence, really matter.

    Happry Birthday, Sunny, and rant on! This may sound absurd, but Sunny is more important to cricket today, as an honest commentator who holds the mirror up to the sport, than he was as the greatest opening batsman in history.

  • bodyline121 on July 10, 2009, 14:46 GMT

    life time of peerless contribution and you get called selfish! nevermind the mindless and the heartless..have a wonderful day, sunny..and thank you for all the good times and proud moments...they shall be treasured....balaji.

  • kuntamukkala on July 10, 2009, 13:54 GMT

    I will never forget 2 innings he played late in his career, one against PAK at Bangalore 1987 ( his Final test) on a minefield of a pitch and the other aganist NZ in 1987 Worldcup ( he got his first and only 100 in one day cricket). Remarkable cricketer !!!

    I was very fortunate to be born in an era to watch 3 of indian greatest cricketers ever to play the game ( Gavaskar, Kapil dev and Tendulkar).

    Hats off Sunny...Wish you many more birthdays.

    Ram K

  • fibonacci_72 on July 10, 2009, 13:49 GMT

    Sunny - I've watched you since I was a kid. You were one of the world's finest cricketers - standing up to the ferocious might of pace bowlers from the Windies to Australia. At 11, I watched the first four days of the Chennai match against the Windies when you scored 236*. You were at 149* at the end of the fourth day, and had simply sent the Windies' fielders scurrying hell for leather by then. Thwaaack - I can remember your cover drives off Malcolm Marshall crashing against the billboards. Bravo, legend! Best wishes, Sai (US)

  • serendipiti on July 10, 2009, 12:51 GMT

    All the very best Sir for a century in life too. U came at a time when Indians were said to be scared of quick bowling and to this day u r considered an epitome on how to play quick bowling. In fact u've been an inspiration for a generation of us who believe that Tendulkar is there because u were there!

  • sureshvarada on July 10, 2009, 12:26 GMT

    Happy Birthday Mr. Gavaskar. A heart felt thanks to you for the service you rendered to our country. You brought so much joy to many cricketing fans all over the world.

  • bingohaley on July 10, 2009, 11:07 GMT

    The reason why Gavaskar will never for me be in the same class as Kapil Dev, Viswanath, Tendulkar and Kumble is that he was never a selfless cricketer as the others. I grew up following Gavaskar's career in the late 70s onwards and I had read his great exploits in the early 70s in the Windies and in England. I loved his copybook style, his concentration and his ambition. However, he was a selfish, petulant and small-minded cricketer which blazes in comparison to people like the exalted company in my first sentence. We all know the near walk-off in Australia, the go-slow in the 75 World Cup, the sweeping under the covers of extremely talented men like Sadanand Viswanath and Dilip Doshi and who knows how many more. What is typically nasty of Gavaskar was his batting left-handed in the Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka in the 2nd innings after it was certain that Bombay had been whipped. One with some dignity and class will not insult his peers in this way. I could go on and on....

  • vswami on July 10, 2009, 10:53 GMT

    My first day watching a test match live as a kid was the day you strode in at 0-2 against Malcolm Marshall at Chennai going on to score 236*. I will never forget the images of that day for the rest of my life. Thanks for all the memories and service to Indian cricket to this day. Some people may consider you oversensitive, but then it was considered natural to take abuse and not give back. Someone had to speak out and you did courageously. Please dont hold back.

  • SMDhakal on July 10, 2009, 10:13 GMT

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUNNY BHAI MANY MANY HAPPY RETURNS OF THE DAY............

  • Vijay_P_S on July 10, 2009, 9:17 GMT

    Sunny.. it is an absolute treat to read your columns or listen to your commentary.. I wish I can hear your commentary in every game as long as I watch cricket.

  • SAILESHKBASU on July 10, 2009, 8:21 GMT

    Indian Cricket without SMG opening the innings is still v.pathetic. You are still the best opening batsmen the world has ever seen. Happy Birthday Sunny.

  • tenz666 on July 10, 2009, 8:04 GMT

    Is he now looking for a career in politics? The two questions after the sledging one were completely avoided as he just went on with what he wanted to say on that topic! :)

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on July 10, 2009, 7:52 GMT

    Many many happy returns of the day Gavaskar Sirji!!

    You have been the only voice in world cricket who has had the courage to stand up to what you feel is right. Any day I prefer your straight talk than a Gilchrist or a Buchanan who would abuse cricketers(Indian especially) just to get their books sold!!

  • vsrajan on July 10, 2009, 7:52 GMT

    Happy Birthday Gavaskar! I still remember the day I met you personally in Chennai to get your autograph. I still preserve the same. I am really proud to be in the same era as you created records after records. During my college days, I used to write diaries of all the test matches - each playing days round up and every day starts with your name - whether u scored a century or single digit. I would bring in all kinds of records and write the days summary. I enjoyed writing those days about your achievements and even today enjoy your off-field comments. I used to argue with my friends who normally were critics of your batting styles but all my friends really appreciated you after your last Test innings at Bangalore against Pakistan. In fact one of my friends who was a ardent critic of yours, really came down to my house to console me and praise your innings which was the greatest victory for me. I wish you continue your services to cricket. U r the greatest Cricketer & a great human.

  • raghustock on July 10, 2009, 7:50 GMT

    thank god! India hasn't produce anyone like you, you were so boring, and you made an exciting sport a boring one. as indian cricket fan i always pray india should never have one more gavaskar, else cricket in india will die.

  • Sampath_KCS on July 10, 2009, 7:25 GMT

    Dear Legend, Long life to you ! Once only I remember seeing you at Colombo during mid 80's I was about 12 years, cant remember you batting but your son playing cricket outside the boundary line..I followed you as commentator from 92 world Cup..where you declared that only two batsmen in the world who can turn a defeat into a win.Miandad & Arjuna..Then Muralis return catch to dismiss Kiran More in 93 Test..Akhtar's All time yorker to dismiss Sachin,..Your prediction at Shajah Cup about how dangerous can be a new batsman call Jayasuriya from SL in the future..Eden Gardens nightmare for indian's in 1996 World Cup Semi... Aravinda & Sachin batting exhibition at Independence Cup 1998...IPL the amount of money floats & the future of Cricket ...You have done immense to not only to Indian Cricket..But also to the World Cricket..Wishing you All the Very Best to keep up the good work !

  • nishant_straightdrive on July 10, 2009, 5:55 GMT

    Many many happy returns of the day Mr. Gavaskar. Wonderful interview-straight from the heart. Not just a Cricketer Par excellence but also one of the most astute analysts of the game. No wonder that a wonderful man like him is also spiritually inclined.

  • mumbaiguy79 on July 10, 2009, 5:40 GMT

    I remember Sunny's inning in the 87 WC. The way he flayed the Kiwis for 103 runs in 88 balls was a treat to watch as a 8 year old. Wish I could have seen him bat more. Oh ya and how about the 10,000 runs landmark. Sunny batted left handed after reaching that mark.

    Anyway, truly a fantastic batsman. Many happy returns of the day!

  • Ganeshsaran123 on July 10, 2009, 5:35 GMT

    Happy Birthday Mr. Sunil Gavaskar, You have been a role model for many cricketers and I have watched you play as a small boy with my father at chennai (Madras) when you scored 236* against the WI. I think no cricketer in india has the temperament which you had in your playing days. Hats off to you.

  • Dejected_Indian_Fan on July 10, 2009, 5:24 GMT

    Happy 60th birthday Sunny!! For me, you are still the best! May you live longer and score another century. Thanks for your classic batting and solid technique.

  • ruffcutt on July 10, 2009, 5:16 GMT

    Happy birthday to you sir! A master batsman who always seemed to do well against my beloved West Indies team. Even against the likes of Holding, Roberts, Garner and Croft.

    Lord Relator even immortalized him in a calypso entitled 'Gavaskar the Real Master'

  • nambu on July 10, 2009, 5:02 GMT

    Its an honour to be born in the same phase of time as you sir..I grew up reading sunny days ( My mom who is a huge fan of yours has an autographed copy) and got an insight into indian cricket. Thank you for making indian cricket what it is today..I think you and kapil gave india so much of respect which no other person has done for any country.Hope you have a wonderful life ahead of you and continue to nurture indian cricket. Happy birthday Sunny!!

  • Looch on July 10, 2009, 4:57 GMT

    One of the all time greats on the field, if a little oversensitive, but his batting qualities and achievements is how he should be remembered. Unfortunately his mouth has tarnished his reputation and the quote "The problem is I haven't learnt to use my head when I speak or I write" sums it up.

  • explorer18 on July 10, 2009, 3:54 GMT

    Happy Birthday Sunny Gavaskar! You probably have no idea how many fans you still have after all these years. Amazing you are, you and Kapil are the 2 most influential cricketers from India. Thank you for everything!

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  • explorer18 on July 10, 2009, 3:54 GMT

    Happy Birthday Sunny Gavaskar! You probably have no idea how many fans you still have after all these years. Amazing you are, you and Kapil are the 2 most influential cricketers from India. Thank you for everything!

  • Looch on July 10, 2009, 4:57 GMT

    One of the all time greats on the field, if a little oversensitive, but his batting qualities and achievements is how he should be remembered. Unfortunately his mouth has tarnished his reputation and the quote "The problem is I haven't learnt to use my head when I speak or I write" sums it up.

  • nambu on July 10, 2009, 5:02 GMT

    Its an honour to be born in the same phase of time as you sir..I grew up reading sunny days ( My mom who is a huge fan of yours has an autographed copy) and got an insight into indian cricket. Thank you for making indian cricket what it is today..I think you and kapil gave india so much of respect which no other person has done for any country.Hope you have a wonderful life ahead of you and continue to nurture indian cricket. Happy birthday Sunny!!

  • ruffcutt on July 10, 2009, 5:16 GMT

    Happy birthday to you sir! A master batsman who always seemed to do well against my beloved West Indies team. Even against the likes of Holding, Roberts, Garner and Croft.

    Lord Relator even immortalized him in a calypso entitled 'Gavaskar the Real Master'

  • Dejected_Indian_Fan on July 10, 2009, 5:24 GMT

    Happy 60th birthday Sunny!! For me, you are still the best! May you live longer and score another century. Thanks for your classic batting and solid technique.

  • Ganeshsaran123 on July 10, 2009, 5:35 GMT

    Happy Birthday Mr. Sunil Gavaskar, You have been a role model for many cricketers and I have watched you play as a small boy with my father at chennai (Madras) when you scored 236* against the WI. I think no cricketer in india has the temperament which you had in your playing days. Hats off to you.

  • mumbaiguy79 on July 10, 2009, 5:40 GMT

    I remember Sunny's inning in the 87 WC. The way he flayed the Kiwis for 103 runs in 88 balls was a treat to watch as a 8 year old. Wish I could have seen him bat more. Oh ya and how about the 10,000 runs landmark. Sunny batted left handed after reaching that mark.

    Anyway, truly a fantastic batsman. Many happy returns of the day!

  • nishant_straightdrive on July 10, 2009, 5:55 GMT

    Many many happy returns of the day Mr. Gavaskar. Wonderful interview-straight from the heart. Not just a Cricketer Par excellence but also one of the most astute analysts of the game. No wonder that a wonderful man like him is also spiritually inclined.

  • Sampath_KCS on July 10, 2009, 7:25 GMT

    Dear Legend, Long life to you ! Once only I remember seeing you at Colombo during mid 80's I was about 12 years, cant remember you batting but your son playing cricket outside the boundary line..I followed you as commentator from 92 world Cup..where you declared that only two batsmen in the world who can turn a defeat into a win.Miandad & Arjuna..Then Muralis return catch to dismiss Kiran More in 93 Test..Akhtar's All time yorker to dismiss Sachin,..Your prediction at Shajah Cup about how dangerous can be a new batsman call Jayasuriya from SL in the future..Eden Gardens nightmare for indian's in 1996 World Cup Semi... Aravinda & Sachin batting exhibition at Independence Cup 1998...IPL the amount of money floats & the future of Cricket ...You have done immense to not only to Indian Cricket..But also to the World Cricket..Wishing you All the Very Best to keep up the good work !

  • raghustock on July 10, 2009, 7:50 GMT

    thank god! India hasn't produce anyone like you, you were so boring, and you made an exciting sport a boring one. as indian cricket fan i always pray india should never have one more gavaskar, else cricket in india will die.