From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.28 :: Jul. 14, 2011
Rain interruptions can be frustrating for the cricketers, the spectators and the media. But then, there are a few occasions when words of wit and wisdom lift one's spirit during these breaks.
Sunil Gavaskar is enormously popular in the Caribbean. His exploits against the quickest of pacemen here are still remembered. Leading the commentary panel in the India-West Indies series, Gavaskar is always in demand.
The strain seldom shows in his visage. Despite the passage of time, Gavaskar retains a sense of boyishness. And his eyes light up when he recounts delightful tales from the past. When it rains at the Kensington Oval, Gavaskar comes up with his nuggets.
Gavaskar reveals how he once sought serious match practice in a tour game ahead of the Test series in Australia during the early 1980s. And his purpose was not met when Jeff Thomson bowled at limited speed, not stretching himself.
Says Gavaskar, “I knew I had to do something to make him angry and bowl fast. So I stepped out and slogged him over mid-wicket.”
The legendary opener goes on: “Thommo was furious. And the wicket-keeper and the slip cordon also needled him with words like ‘Come on Thommo, he has hit you like that.'”
A provoked Thomson bowled a spell of real pace. “He looked at me after a quick delivery and said, ‘why don't you hit me like that again?'”
Gavaskar's reponse was: “You bowl there (on the slot) and I will hit you again.”
In the process, Gavaskar got the sort of practice — a fall bowler bowling at full clip — ahead of the Tests.
The tale does not end here. Says Gavsakar, “At the other end, Sandeep Patil was too keen on a single. He shouted at me ‘You got him angry, you wanted to get practice, now you face him!'.”
Interestingly, Patil went on to have a tremendous Test series against a seriously good Aussie pace attack of Lillee, Hogg and Pascoe. And skipper Gavaskar was pleased.
“Thomson was the quickest bowler I ever faced. Malcolm (Marshall) has skiddy pace but Thomson was the fastest,” says Gavaskar.
Gavaskar played in an era when cricket equipment was still evolving. He says, “This also led to us playing the short-pitched deliveries into the body well. If we held the bat hard, we would feel tremendous pain as the ball crashed into the gloves. So we held the willow with very soft hands. Even if the lifting ball hit the gloves, we would not feel anything. The delivery would just die down the blade.”
Gavaskar possessed great cricketing fitness. He also had to battle shin splints. “I had my own methods. I would never lap the ground. I would sprint 60 yards with pads on,” he says.
The great opener faced several hostile fast bowlers from the Caribbean during his eventful career but says the West Indies pacemen never sledged. “They would never say anything to the batsmen. They would look at the batsman and get back to the bowling mark.”
There are several more gems from Gavaskar's treasure trove. We can save them for another rainy day.
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