World Championship of Cricket: The ‘Fish & Chips’ story behind Sunil Gavaskar’s India captaincy
Former India batsman Sunil Gavaskar spoke about the circumstances under which he was appointed captain of the Indian cricket team ahead of their historic Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket win. Speaking on the Sony Sports, Gavaskar said that he got to know about his appointment as India’s captain through his wife and that he decided upon the team while sitting in a car. The Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket remains one of the most storied wins in the history of Indian cricket. Sure, India had won the World Cup in 1983, but winning the World Championship of Cricket in Australia was what cemented them as a force to reckon with in ODIs. Under Gavaskar, India produced a dominant performance, winning all three league matches before beating New Zealand in the semifinal and later Pakistan in the final to cap off the tournament without tasting a single defeat.
However, what makes the win ever sweeter is the fact that India had a pretty average record in the lead-up to the tournament, losing 1-2 to England in Tests and facing a string of losses in ODIs. Due to a good season overall, the selectors were to pick between Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri to lead India in Australia, but the manner in which it happened caught Gavaskar off-guard.
“So this selection was in Chandigarh at that time and Ravi and I were sitting and waiting because we knew the selection committee was meeting to decide the captain of the team for the World Championship of Cricket,” Gavaskar told Joy Bhattacharya.
“Ravi was also in the mix because he’d had a top season. I was waiting in his room when my wife called, saying “Fish and Chips” had been served in our room. So when I went back, she told me that I had been appointed captain and that Ranbir Singh Mahendra, the secretary of the board was waiting for me in his car. Because the media was waiting in the front gate, I took another route. So I went in and sat in his car and that is where he and I selected the team of the World Championship.”
Legend has it that even before the team left for Australia, Gavaskar had an epiphany that India would win the tournament. It was something he had never done in his life, let alone at a time when India were struggling. Gavaskar does not remember the exact incident but agrees he definitely “had a vision that India were going to win.”
“When I sat in that meeting, what I really wanted was some fresh energy, fresh faces. Faces in the dressing room who were not traumatised by the season that we’d had. So in came Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, Sadanand Viswanath, Chetan Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar. These were the young, fresh guys whom I wanted in the team,” Gavaskar said.
Gavaskar revealed he had to make a case for Sivaramakrishnan since inclusion of legspinners back then was slightly frowned upon.
“I told them that ‘look these are large Australian grounds and for someone to clear the boundaries will take some doing.’ Secondly, I said Australian pitches have a little more bounce. Legspinners generally have managed to get a lot of wickets because they can turn the ball on Australian surfaces and get that extra bounce which forces mistiming,” Gavaskar said.
Gavaskar’s assessment couldn’t be more spot on as Siva claimed 10 wickets from five matches.
“Siva was a brilliant bowler. He was bowling magnificently. The selection committee agreed and that’s what we say. The spinners were magical. Of course, there was Kapil getting wickets, but Siva and Ravi were getting us wickets in the middle overs. It was absolutely fantastic,” he said.