My off-the-field association with former Indian legendary opener Sunil Gavaskar was much more enjoyable and fruitful than the ones on the field and perhaps we were destined to be more than just close friends, colleagues (while playing for the country) and rivals (while playing domestic cricket). To be associated with such a great cricketer for such a long time is a very satisfying feeling, to say the least.
Turning sixty is some sort of a personal milestone in everyone's life. I and Ajit Wadekar will happily welcome Sunil Gavaskar to our club when he turn 60 next week. It is indeed a great privilege to be closely associated with someone who has contributed so much to cricket both as a player and a commentator. I wish him to score yet another grand century (live 100 years).
Like his desire was to score a century every time he stepped out to bat, we too desire to see him score one last century for himself and I take this opportunity to wish him and his family all the luck and hope he continues to entertain people for the rest of his life like he used to during his playing days.
I think our association started during the Moin-ud-dowlla tournament in Hyderabad in the late 60s, but as opponents. I had already played my first Ranji Trophy match for Karnataka but Sunny was yet to make his Ranji debut. However, once I watched him play in that tournament, there was no doubt in my mind that he would one day go on to play for the country.
The two things which struck me most were his copy-book style shots and the tremendous concentration he showed while stitching an innings together. I cannot recollect any other batsmen who could concentrate as much as Sunny could even before he would go out to bat.
Soon after the toss was won, nobody dared to go near Sunny when he started padding up to open the innings because everybody knew that he would be concentrating hard and would not like to be disturbed by anyone. In fact there would be pin-drop silence in the Indian dressing room as none of us would like to go near him and disturb his concentration and perhaps that was one point even his opponents marveled at.
Unfortunately for our Indian team, we were not associated in big partnerships as frequently as we would have loved but the very first time we played together for the country we managed to put up a century partnership in the Guyana Test against the West Indies after I missed the first two Tests due to injury during the 1971 tour.
Gavaskar's debut during the 1971 tour of the West Indies is a very well documented one. Not only did the world see a world class opening batsman being born but also witnessed India making history by winning their first ever overseas Test series against the West Indies and England.
Probably the second big partnership we put on was in the Mumbai Test three years later against Clive Lloyd's team. However, as I said before we were probably destined to have a longer partnership off the field as brother-in-laws than on the field as Indian teammates.
Another great nature he had, apart from being a fabulous cricketer, is to pass on his experience and valuable tips to the younger generation. Even today we come across him giving batting tips to the best of batsmen, including Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. Even the younger lot like Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina seek his advice quite often and he is always there to help them out.
So it is truly wonderful to be associated with a master batsman who always believed in speaking his mind out. I wish him many, many, many more happy birthdays to follow and hopefully he crosses the century mark as he was always hungry for on-field centuries like a true champion batsman.
(As told by Mr Gundappa Vishwanath to V Veera Kumar.)
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