How Mumbai maidans made the modern-day greats of Indian cricket
On October 17, 2008, in Mohali in opposition to Australia, Sachin Tendulkar broke Brian Lara’s document to turn into the best run scorer in Check cricket and the primary to cross 12,000 runs. Tendulkar had promised me an interview to mark the momentous event. We had additionally contracted Gavaskar for skilled comme
On October 17, 2008, in Mohali in opposition to Australia, Sachin Tendulkar broke Brian Lara’s document to turn into the best run scorer in Check cricket and the primary to cross 12,000 runs. Tendulkar had promised me an interview to mark the momentous event. We had additionally contracted Gavaskar for skilled feedback on the collection. Which is how one night in the course of the Mohali Check I got here near reaching cricket nirvana as Gavaskar and Tendulkar sat down collectively to speak cricket: Gavaskar wearing a conventional collared shirt, Tendulkar in a extra informal polo-neck T-shirt, their sartorial variations reflecting the generational shift.
Gavaskar and Tendulkar, two quick males with tall achievements: 85 Check lots of between them, and greater than 26,000 Check runs. They’re the dual towers of Indian batting, one is the classicist, the opposite the extra versatile; each all-time greats. Greater than the sheer quantity of runs, it’s what they represented to 2 generations of Indian cricket followers that units them aside: if Gavaskar gave Indian cricket dignity and self-respect, Tendulkar introduced vitality and pleasure. When Gavaskar first noticed Tendulkar bat, he instantly rang up his spouse to say he had seen one thing ‘particular’. When Tendulkar was rising up, Gavaskar was a task mannequin together with the West Indian, Sir Vivian Richards. “I used to be an enormous fan of Sir Viv however Gavaskar’s 10,000 runs and 34 centuries was at all times the benchmark for cricket greatness,” mentioned Tendulkar. “It wasn’t a aware goal however I assume it was at all times there someplace in the back of the thoughts.” Tendulkar finally went previous Gavaskar’s data however a pure statistical comparability is not simple. They each averaged greater than 50 in Check cricket, however Gavaskar was a gap batsman, Tendulkar performed at quantity 4. One was nurtured within the pre-helmet period, the opposite had the good thing about batting with a helmet. Gavaskar performed for a very long time with the information that your entire Indian batting efficiency was depending on him whereas Tendulkar had the profit within the latter half of his profession of being a part of a uncommon assemblage of Indian batting stars from Sehwag to Dravid to Laxman in a single staff. Gavaskar was reared in an age the place there was a premium on defensive batting; the Tendulkar interval noticed a transition to the extra attacking sport. Gavaskar scored just one restricted overs worldwide century whereas Tendulkar hit an unbelievable 49 one-day centuries. Like all nice gamers, they may adapt to any state of affairs. Tendulkar as soon as batted with grim dedication for greater than 600 minutes to make an unbeaten double century in opposition to Australia at Sydney in 2004 with out hitting a single off-drive in anger. In the meantime, Gavaskar modified gears on his strategy to a double century on the Oval in 1979, attacking the English bowling and taking India near an unbelievable final day win.
Each had very distinctive batting kinds: Gavaskar extra upright in stance, utilizing a a lot lighter bat, ft nearer along with a slight shuffle earlier than the bowler delivered, whereas Tendulkar, with the heavier bat and unconventional backside hand grip, crouched a bit extra and the ft have been wider aside. Gavaskar was most likely the higher cutter, Tendulkar the more practical puller; a signature Tendulkar again foot cowl drive was as pleasant to observe as a Gavaskar late reduce. Each have been masters of the straight drive, the leg-side flick and judging a single. Certainly, the precision of their actions, the stillness of the pinnacle, the straightness of their bat and, above all else, the fierce dedication and starvation for runs have been a standard thread: Gavaskar had merely handed the baton to Tendulkar simply as a earlier technology had relayed the torch to him. “I keep in mind when Gavaskar gifted his pads to me, I slept with them subsequent to me as a result of it was like a bit of priceless treasure for me,” recalled Tendulkar.
On the flip of the century, Tendulkar acquired the last word praise when the Australian batting legend Sir Don Bradman, extensively thought to be the greatest-ever batsman, claimed to have seen distinct similarities between Tendulkar’s compact, aggressive batting type and his personal. I interviewed Tendulkar just a few months after the Bradman remark and he was clearly overwhelmed by the comparability. “I do not assume I can ask for extra as a batsman, can I?” he mentioned proudly. In 2001, Bradman’s personal best all-time eleven choice noticed Tendulkar determine as the one Indian within the aspect however the reality that there have been as many as seven Australians in Bradman’s staff means that cricket alternatives are sometimes dictated by parochialism.
For a extra nuanced evaluation of their artwork of batting, I turned to Milind Rege, the veteran Mumbai cricketer who performed with Gavaskar proper from their schooldays collectively and was one of many first to identify Tendulkar’s expertise. “Very troublesome to check the 2 greats from totally different generations,” he says. “However what I’ll say is that Tendulkar was a prodigy, Sunil was not. Gavaskar labored at his sport and thru superb powers of focus grew to become an all-time nice whereas Tendulkar was already a completed product by the point he was 15. Gavaskar by no means gave you an opportunity as soon as he was set whereas Sachin was at all times trying to assault and so was extra fallible. In a way, Sachin was extra like Viv Richards in his want to dominate the bowling whereas Gavaskar was the normal error-free opening batsman.” So who would you want in your staff, I ask Rege. “Cannot I’ve each?” He winks, including, “Let me put it this fashion, I’d like to have Sachin in my staff however I’d hate to have Gavaskar within the opposition.”
Kapil Dev, who bowled to each, says that Gavaskar was the harder to get out however Tendulkar was the extra proficient. “Gavaskar would at all times hit the unhealthy ball for 4, however with Sachin, he might even hit the nice deliveries for a boundary,” says Kapil. India’s premier all-rounder believes Tendulkar ought to even have scored much more runs than he finally did. “Together with his expertise, he ought to have really scored triple centuries and quadruple centuries in Check cricket, Sachin was that good,” Kapil argues. That Tendulkar’s highest Check rating is 248 not out in opposition to Bangladesh is maybe a slight statistical blip, particularly when you think about modern like Virender Sehwag hit two Check triple lots of. It maybe suggests a mindset that was risk-averse even when the opposition bowlers had drained and wilted. After I ask Tendulkar to reply, he smiles: “You possibly can’t have every thing in life, however practically 16,000 Check runs is not too unhealthy, is it?”
Gavaskar has a greater captaincy document however then Tendulkar, one might argue, did not get sufficient alternatives to guide the staff in additional acquainted house situations. “Sure, not attending to captain a profitable aspect is a giant remorse,” he as soon as instructed me. The extra articulate and cerebral Gavaskar has spoken out in public on cricket points much more usually than the extra introverted and diplomatic Tendulkar, who has by no means expressed himself strongly on even, say, the match-fixing controversy. “I’ve spoken once I wanted to however I do not imagine in unfastened speak based mostly on allegations,” he tells me.
In the course of the joint interview in Mohali once I requested Gavaskar and Tendulkar who was the higher participant, every pointed instantly to the opposite. “I’d go miles to observe Tendulkar bat however am unsure I’d try this for me,” mentioned Gavaskar self-deprecatingly. He mentioned Tendulkar’s “stability” was a real measure of his success, “stability on the sphere, stability in life”. Tendulkar mentioned Gavaskar’s skilled work ethic was inspirational for his technology.
The mutual respect, in a way, is reflective of an analogous Maharashtrian middle-class background, of being a part of a shared heritage of Mumbai cricket that was nurtured on the town’s maidans and toughened by the crowded bus and prepare rides to matches. Gavaskar began enjoying within the slim lane of a crowded colony in south-central Mumbai the place the main focus was on protecting the ball alongside the bottom in order that no windowpanes have been damaged. Within the leafy Sahitya Sahawas colony in suburban Mumbai, Tendulkar had a bit extra freedom: you could possibly really hit a lofted shot, strike a tree and nonetheless not be out, which could clarify his extra effervescent stroke-play.
Maybe one strategy to distinction Gavaskar and Tendulkar is to view them as pre- and post-liberalisation batting heroes. Gavaskar grew up in 1960s India when the nation was nonetheless uncertain of its place on the planet. His debut collection in 1971 was a breakout 12 months, one which instilled hope in the way forward for Indian cricket. However via a lot of Gavaskar’s profession, India was rising at a sluggish ‘Hindu’ charge of development and cricket mirrored the frugal occasions: this was not an India that allowed for extravagance. By the point Tendulkar made his mark on the sport, India was a nation on the transfer: the 1991 opening up of the financial system was seen as an unshackling of the ‘animal spirit’ of Indian entrepreneurship. Tendulkar’s batting epitomised this spirit of larger freedom and risk-taking.
That they each come from Mumbai solely reveals how the town has been on the coronary heart of Indian batting for the larger a part of the primary 60 years after Independence. Nonetheless, there have been distinct indicators prior to now decade that present the glory days of Mumbai cricket are over as different areas of the nation throw up their very own heroes. (In 2016, the primary Check performed at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium after Tendulkar’s retirement did not have a single participant from Mumbai.) However the reverence for the Gavaskar-Tendulkar batting legacy is unshaken in India’s authentic cricket capital. For my technology, Gavaskar was a cricketing god. For the 1990s technology, it’s Tendulkar. The Siddhivinayak temple within the coronary heart of Mumbai attracts lakhs of devotees, as does the Haji Ali dargah. Completely different non secular teams come to worship right here. However in cricket, there isn’t a non secular barrier when celebrating our divinities-in Mumbai, we venerate Gavaskar and Tendulkar with equal fervour.