Happy Birthday Sunil Gavaskar: 10 times India's Little Master didn't mince words and dared to call a spade a spade | Crickit

Happy Birthday Sunil Gavaskar: 10 times India's Little Master didn't mince words and dared to call a spade a spade

Jul 10, 2024 01:18 PM IST

Sunil Gavaskar's voice has been a staple in cricket commentary since the end of his illustrious playing career in the late 1980s.

The ‘Little Master’ may be a term most commonly associated with Sachin Tendulkar, but it has been used to refer to several cricketers in the past. The first famous use of the tag was probably for Pakistan batting great Hanif Mohammad. The term then came to India, not for Tendulkar, but for Sunil Gavaskar, who turns 75. The former India captain is regarded as one of the greatest openers in the history of the game and was the first player to score over 10,000 Test runs. He was also the first to score 30 Test centuries and thus go past Don Bradman's long-standing record for most centuries in the format when on December 28, 1983 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai against the mighty West Indies.

Sunil Gavaskar built a distinguished career as a player and then as a commentator. (Getty Images)
Sunil Gavaskar built a distinguished career as a player and then as a commentator. (Getty Images)

Gavaskar's last match came in an ODI against England at the Wankhede Stadium on November 5, 1987. While he recently revealed that he never officially retired from international cricket, he had told the selectors that he won't be available after this game. Since then, Gavaskar's voice has been a staple in cricket matches as he built a formidable career as a commentator and broadcaster, to the point that there would be at least two generations of cricket fans who have seen him only as a commentator and not as a player. Gavaskar has built a reputation for not being afraid to air criticism, regardless of who is at the receiving end of it. Here we take a look at some of his greatest quotes since he retired as a player. The list is in no particular order of importance.

1. Telling Tendulkar he will ‘strangle’ him if he doesn't score 15,000 Test runs and 40 centuries

The end of Gavaskar's career coincided with the start of Tendulkar's. The former has said that he had rarely felt as excited to see a young Indian player as he did when he saw Tendulkar in his early years. A clip of Gavaskar ending an interview with a young Tendulkar by giving the latter a target has resurfaced a number of times online over the past few years.

“And I for one know that if at the end of his career, he does not get a minimum of 15000 runs and 40 Test centuries, I shall personally go and strangle him,” Gavaskar says in the clip with Tendulkar sheepishly smiling beside him. "Twenty years down my hands will not have strength, so he might still survive but I will deputise somebody to do that for me.

"He has got that much of challenge. Sachin, I hope you would not let me down and not let Indian cricket down," Gavaskar can be heard saying in an old interview posted by a Twitter user named Subu Sastry. "I will be trying my best," Tendulkar replies in a squeaky voice. By the time Tendulkar had retired, he had 15,921 Test runs to his name and a whopping 51 centuries.

2. Asking Star Sports to not disrespect its own commentators

Gavaskar was among those who criticised Virat Kohli for his strike rate in the early part of the 2024 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) playing for the Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB). Kohli, while not taking Gavaskar's name, hit back pretty strongly at "all the people who talk about strike rates" after his unbeaten 70 off 44 balls helped RCB chase down a target of 201 in 16 overs against Gujarat Titans.

When broadcaster Star Sports played the interview during the pre-match show a few days later before the reverse fixture between the two sides, Gavaskar made his displeasure known. “Star Sports needs to understand they've shown it enough times. Everybody got the message," he said. “I'll be very disappointed if Star Sports shows it once more. That'll be questioning all of us commentators, not just these two (Matthew Hayden and I), those in the box, those earlier on. You're questioning their knowledge, their expertise," said Gavaskar.

3. War of words with Ricky Ponting in the infamous 2008 Sydney Test

A riveting Test match that ended up being remembered for its controversies more than the quality of cricket, the Sydney Test between India and Australia is best remembered for the “Monkeygate” row between Harbhajan Singh and the late Andrew Symonds and the umpiring howlers. Gavaskar made his displeasure known of the umpiring standards when an unsure Mark Benson asked for clarification from Australian captain Ricky Ponting if Sourav Ganguly was out or not. “Now this is where he (the umpire) is asking the captain, ‘Did he catch it?’ and then he says yes. Well, if that’s the case why don’t ask the batsman then? Why is it that a fielder’s word has to be believed and not the batsman's? “Here is a man who didn’t walk when he was 14 [after being] caught down the leg side. So why should his word be taken that he or his fielder had taken the catch?

“It cannot be that you are honest when you are fielding and not so honest when you are batting. That is nonsense, utter nonsense,” said Gavaskar. Ponting responded by saying that Gavaskar was "no angel" in his playing days and the latter said that the comment from the then-Australia captain was "unnecessary".

4. Ian Bell controversy during 2011 Trent Bridge Test

We all know what happened. Ian Bell walked out of his crease thinking that he had hit a four and the session had ended, India ran him out. Suddenly that became a breach of the spirit of cricket and when the teams walked out after Lunch, MS Dhoni's men when soundly booed at first but then that became thunderous applause when the English fans saw that India had recalled the appeal and Bell had walked back out. Gavaskar wasn't too happy about the fact that India had been saddled with having to make that decision despite it being a silly mistake from Bell. "It's always India who is expected to do the sporting thing," he remarked.

5. Wide ball reviews a waste of time in IPL 2024

Reviews for wide balls have been a contentious issue ever since it was introduced in the IPL. There have often been instances where lengthy reviews would be taken only for it to turn out that the umpire was correct. After one such review during a match between SRH and RCB, Gavaskar said on air that there is no point implementing the Decision Review System for wides. "It’s a waste of time. I can understand using DRS for dismissals. But there’s no point using it for wides,” Gavaskar could be heard saying on air.

6. Slamming BCCI for RP Singh fiasco during India's 2011 tour of England

The 2011 tour of England was a forgettable one for India. Not only were they flattened in all four Test matches, there were issues with personnel with the selectors being accused of allowing players to play despite carrying injuries. Gavaskar said that it is baffling for him how reserve fast bowler RP Singh has landed in England on the day of the start of the third Test instead of travelling with the team earlier and playing a practice game.

"The visas are all done for the standbyes so that they can fly in case of an injury. The fact that RP Singh has not come, I believe he is landing today. What good is he landing today when the Test begins today. These are things that need to be done earlier on," he said.

7. Slamming bowlers for no balls

Gavaskar isn't too forgiving when it comes to bowlers overstepping, particularly in limited overs cricket where a no ball means a free-hit for the batter in addition to the extra run. An example of that could be seen in India's match against Pakistan in the recently-concluded T20 World Cup. Mohammed Siraj overstepped in the 17th over of the Pakistan innings. "Unforgivable. Professional cricketers, whatever you are, you cannot bowl a no-ball. It is in your control. Wide balls are not always in your control but no-ball is. Unprofessional, unacceptable at this level. No excuses whatsoever," an irate Gavaskar said on air.

8. Mocking Ben Stokes for DRS comment

Ben Stokes had raised a few eyebrows when he said that an umpire's call decision hurt England after they lost the third Test against India in Rajkot by 434 runs. My personal opinion is if the ball is hitting the stumps, it is hitting the stumps. They should take away 'umpire's call' if I'm being perfectly honest," Stokes told TalkSPORT after the match. On the morning of the fourth Test, though, England opener Ben Duckett was saved by the umpire's call. "Those wanting umpire's call to be abolished, this is for them. If the umpire's call wasn't there then it would have been bye-bye Duckett. If every ball clipping the stumps was declared out then more Test matches would end in three days," said Gavaskar on commentary. He didn't take any names but it was quite clear who the comment was aimed at.

9. “Seen the future of Indian batting”

In 2012, during one of India's Asia Cup matches, Sunil Gavaskar had famously said on commentary, “I think we have glimpsed the future. The future of Indian batting. Rahul Dravid has just called it a day. We don't know how long Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman are going to be around. But I think that is a glimpse of India’s batting future.”

He was referring to the sight of a young Kohli and a 24-year-old Rohit Sharma. Kohli, by then, was closing in on completing four years in international cricket, while Rohit had a stop-start journey. They had promise but were far from coming anywhere near to filling Tendulkar or Dravid's shoes. But like a prophet, Gavaskar, and his knack of spotting talent, was bang on. Two of the most prolific run scorers of their generation, Rohit and Kohli retired from T20Is after powering India to the T20 World Cup title this year.

10. Asking "morons" to stop talking about pitch change during 2023 World Cup

Such was India's dominant run in the 2023 World Cup that there were quite a few claims made about them using some dark arts. There were outlandish claims, like a former Pakistan player saying India have some machine inside their balls which was helping them generate swing, leading to Wasim Akram asking said player not to embarrass the rest of the cricket lovers in the country. Then there were claims of pitches being changed at the last minute to suit India and Gavaskar was not too happy with that.

“All those morons who have been saying about pitch change, I hope they just shut up, stop taking potshots at India. Stop talking about pitch change. It was for both teams,” Gavaskar told the broadcasters after India's semi-final against New Zealand. “For God’s sake the second semifinal hasn’t been played and they are talking about changing pitch in Ahmedabad,” Gavaskar said.

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