CRED's The Long Game: ‘West Indies & Sunil Gavaskar’ story beyond cricket
If someone can vouch for Sunil Gavaskar’s strong character, it’s the West Indies team of the 1970s and 1980s. A diminutive batsman from Mumbai made his debut in 1971 that left the mighty West Indian side scratching their heads. He amassed 774 runs - most runs scored in a debut Test series, which still stands unchallenged.
Sunil Gavaskar loved to take on the Windies, scoring 13 of 34 centuries against a side that boasted of the best fast-bowling attack back then. In the latest episode of CRED’s series The Long Game, the Little Master shares anecdotes about the toothache that boosted his aggression against West Indies in the debut series, his first cap, the mighty double hundred, and more.
‘The Long Game’ series has previously featured much-loved cricketers who shared insights into their lives, careers, and learnings that can be applied to life. It brought fans closer to the stars including Rahul Dravid, Ravi Shastri, Kapil Dev, Mithali Raj, Ashish Nehra, and Kiran More.
On playing against the great West Indies team and the ‘Gavaskar song’:
The little master opened up on his admiration for the West Indies team of the 70s.
“Well, the West Indies were a wonderful, wonderful team at that particular point of time. And to beat them was something that was an ambition and a dream of many Indian players.”
While Gavaskar made his mark on the Windies cricket team, Trinidadian singer Lord Relator also went on to make a song about the Little Master after he scored 750+ runs in his debut series.. The song titled ‘Gavaskar Calypso’ was in praise of the Indian team who were putting West Indies “in trouble”.
“Lord Relator was a West Indian, and for him to praise the Indian team was something really special. To see an opponent do that, was a lesson in accepting defeat with humility because you can't always be the winner, you can't always be the best. There will always be some time, somebody on a particular day who will be better than you”
The toothache in the debut series:
He opens up on how an ill-fated water jug managed to make his match so much tougher. He tells us “On the eve, of that last test match in the West Indies in Port of Spain, after practice session, I am trying to drink water from my jug, and bits of ice got into the cavity of my tooth and it was so painful!
“But because there was a test match to be played and we were already 1-0 up, and this became a very crucial test match, and I wanted to be a part of the Indian team. The manager of the team forbade me from taking any sleeping tablets or any painkillers and anything that is likely to affect your reflexes, make you a little bit sleep"is something I'm not going to give you." So which meant that I had not even think about the pain.
“But that's what happens when you're playing for your country. You tend to forget any externals, any pain or any other things that could happen to you. Because playing for your country is the Ultimate. And that is what kept me going because I realized I was the one in form, and the team needed me. I managed to go on for 5 days, and when I got out in the second innings, where I got a double hundred and I got a century in the first innings as well.
“That's when the manager immediately sent me to the dentist and he extracted the truth. So by the time I actually came back, India was in a very good position. So I was there, to see the end in a draw which meant that India with its 1-0 win, went on to win a series against the West Indies for the first time ever. It was a joyful moment for all of us, a very very proud moment for all of us. But with it came the added pressure of expectations.”
On banter with Ashok Mankad:
He opens up about how having a sense of humour helped him, and what it taught him. “In the last test of the 1971 series, immediately after the West Indies, India won that test match... but I made no contribution. I was out, declared LBW for 0. But my opening partner, Ashok Mankad, hung around and saw the new ball off, and was dismissed for 12. (And) he had struggled throughout that series, he got 1,2,5,6, or something like that. So in the final innings of the series, he got 12.
“So he came back to the changing room, and as he took off his pads, etc. He said, and he had a great sense of humour, Ashok Mankad had a great sense of humour. (And) he said "Just when I was looking good, this series is ending. I wish it was a 5 test series because I would definitely have gotten to 25 before the 5th test."
“I think you need to have a sense of humour to be able to understand that cricket is a game which is so unpredictable. Having a sense of humour certainly helps you to look at the positive side of things, it helps you to take yourself less seriously, and that's an important aspect. So the lesson that I learned very early, to be able to stick around in the face of adversity is very, very important. Because that actually tells you the character that you have.”
On his uncle Madhav Mantri’s team cap:
Sunil Gavaskar opens about having a cricketing inspiration within his family “So, my uncle, Madhav Mantri played 4 test matches for India in the 1950s. So I used to go with my mother to visit his house, and in his cupboard, I saw lots of caps, lots of jumpers. So one day I asked him, "you got so many caps, can I have one of these caps."
“And he said to me "NO. Yes, I have lots of caps but no you can't have it because I've earned every single one of them. So you earn your own cap, and that is when you will be very proud having earned that. That cap will mean a lot more to you if you get it out of your own sweat and toil" and that is something that stuck with me.
“So even when I was given the India cap as a touring party member to the West Indies, I didn't wear that cap for almost 3-4 weeks till I actually was selected to play for India in the test match.
And the day I was selected to play, the day I entered the field as a test match player was the first time I wore that cap. That cap was in my bag for almost 3 to 4 weeks.”