Sunil Gavaskar, the former Indian captain, turned 71 yesterday and wishes poured in for the legendary batsman from all over the world. BCCI and ICC’s official Twitter handles tweeted their birthday greetings for the Little Master, paying tribute to the first batsman to reach 10,000 Test runs. “World Cup winner, first batsman to score 10,000 Test runs, most numbers of runs in debut Test series. “Happy Birthday to the former team India captain and batting legend”, wrote BCCI. Gavaskar, who has held multiple batting records, is rated as one of the finest batsmen to have ever played the game.
Like me, those born in the 60s and those even in 70s will remember him as a hero He was my role model and is still is.
I remember waiting and holding my breath for his centuries. That was the time of the radio commentary and the B&W TV set. Listening to the radio patiently and praying for another century, specially from 80 runs to 100 runs was one of the most interesting things in life. Thank God, life was so simple then, even when not having anything really ! The culmination of any test century was like my personal achievement and was an euphoric feeling that lasted an entire day ! Throughout my school days and even during my SSC and HSC exam days, and later in college, I followed his batting, records and achievements.
I was fortunate to shake hands with him when I was a school kid, and almost with the entire Bombay Ranji trophy team then, on the occasion of my cousin Subhash Bandiwadekar’s wedding, who was then Mumbai’s wicketkeeper.
When he retired in 1987, I was about to finish my post graduation. The day he retired, I thought a great career is over. But little did I realise that another great career had begun, which has gone on and on for more than 30 years- that of a sports expert, a sports administrator, a commentator ‘’par excellence’’, a great mentor and a great sports writer. And of course, I am a great admirer of his command over the English language and his ( extempore) ability to articulate on live TV,- be it a complex cricketing situation, (which again is the hallmark of a great commentator ) or explaining a special cricketing policy in a “limited words” newspaper column.
Actually I myself am reaching a so called ‘’retirement age’’, but my hero is still going on and on, and so I have now decided not to retire anytime !! Age after all is just a number.
I remember reading ‘’Sunny Days’’ his autobiography, twice during school. I also clearly remember where he resided, at a 10 to 15 minute walk from my home at Dadar, at Sir Bhalchandra Road, in Madhavi Building in a small flat in a typical middle class area, just behind where Pritam Hotel is. This was when his cricketing career was in the nascent stage, and even while he started playing test cricket . May be that was because his Dadar Union club was just a 15 minute walk- where he was a ‘’regular’’ early in the morning to practise or to play club cricket. That was sometimes even after returning from an overseas India tour, the earlier evening or night.
What I realised over a period of time- possibly subconsciously- from Gavaskar is that life can be Sunny throughout, when you dedicate yourself to a cause. The ‘’cause’’ changes over a period of time, but your focus must not. Devote yourself to something and then keep changing as per the need. In life there is no stopping, and no failures. Practice makes a man perfect, dedication makes you achieve a lot of things and being a mentor or guide and advisor to the next generation is the best you can do for others- in the latter part of an extended career. Also, typical middle class virtues can take you places if you are honest, dedicated, sincere and respect your seniors and are willing to learn.
Sunny, thanks for being a motivator, mentor and idol in my life though you don’t know me.
Dinesh Bandiwadekar 9619545460/ Dinesh.Bandiwadekar@gmail.com, stayed at Dadar, studied at IES ( King George school) and Ruia College till the 12th, all within a stone’s throw from where the Little Master grew up.