Nutan Gavaskar: Sunil hardly played cricket as a youngster

"I think cricket just happened. We never thought he will become big in cricket. Maybe that’s the reason he has stayed grounded," Nutan said of her brother Sunil Gavaskar on his 67th birthday.

According to his younger sister, Nutan, Sunil Gavaskar, when he was very young, played badminton and table-tennis more than cricket.   -  The Hindu Archives

Batting maestro Sunil Gavaskar’s younger sister Nutan and his former opening partner Shishir Hattangadi told little known anecdotes about the batting maestro on his 67th birthday celebration at the C. K. Nayudu Hall, Cricket Club of India (CCI) here on Sunday.

“When he was very young, he hardly played cricket; he played a lot of table tennis and badminton. I think cricket just happened. We never thought he will become big in cricket. Maybe that’s the reason he has stayed grounded,” Nutan said at the Legends Club’s celebration of Gavaskar’s birthday.

On Sunday while Gavaskar was at London’s All England Lawn Tennis Club watching Andy Murray win his second men’s singles title at Wimbledon, the likes of the Legends Club president Madhav Apte and former Bombay opener Shishir Hattangadi revealed facets of Gavaskar’s character that perhaps are not widely known.

“He inculcated a lot from his maternal uncle Madhav Mantri. But over and above the cricketing qualities, Sunil also had the sense of humour which I am afraid his uncle was not particularly known for. Sunil would be among the greatest opening batsman the game has seen and certainly Indian cricket has seen. What he achieved was because of mental stamina, much above physical stamina. I would say that he would have to be looked upon as the ‘Guru’ of openers,” said Apte.

Guest speaker Hattangadi narrated an incident that almost made the audience split their sides with laughter. “Sunil did not like dogs and when he once came home I had a dachshund with short legs. I told him it’s named “Googly”. To which he said: “You know what you should have done -- it has four short legs and you should have named it Larwood. If his name was Larwood I would have played him well. I love the short ball. I may not be able to pick the googly.” Though he was scared of dogs, he had a sense of humour. We as foot soldiers of the game, keep watching him and imbibe from him, including the sense of humour and wit.”

Hattangadi, one of Gavaskar’s opening partners, recalled another conversation with him. “Once I asked him “why don’t you speak to youngsters?” And he replied: “I am not an optician... not an eye specialist. But if they have a problem and ask me I am very open for advice, but I don’t want them to say "who is this commentator giving me advice?" These are changing times and history of cricket is somewhere being ignored.”

Nutan said: “To all sisters, their brothers are wonderful… Sunil to me is a wonderful brother; not because he is Gavaskar, but because he is Sunil. We used to go and watch him not so much in inter-school matches, but inter-college and inter-varsity matches in Nagpur, Jabalpur and Baroda and he never objected to that. Today many young cricketers do not like their parents and family members see them play. Sunil was very religious and applied vibhuti [ash] on his forehead.”