Sunil Gavaskar walks down memory lane

The legendary batsman said that club cricket is paramount as it allows players to express their talent and graduate to Ranji Trophy.

Former India cricket captain Sunil Gavaskar at Mumbai Police Gymkhana ground at Marine Drive in Mumbai on Monday.   -  Supreet Sapkal

As Sunil Manohar Gavaskar walked into the Police Gymkhana on Monday evening as the chief guest for the 71st Police Shield, it was quite a nostalgic outing for the Indian cricket legend.

And the emotions were flying as Gavaskar addressed the crowd and the young cricketers of the title-winning Parkhophene side.

He admitted that coming here did bring back memories. “When we were growing up, there were three tournaments that we would look forward to — the Purshottam Shield, the (Padmakar) Talim Shield and the Police Shield. Yes, there was Kanga League of course, but that was played in the rainy season. But f you wanted to impress the selectors, these were the three tournaments that you wanted to do well. That’s where the selection committee took note of you,” Gavaskar reminisced.

“This tournament used to be a big tournament. I remember, we won it playing for Mumbai University. Siraj Narsi was the vice-captain and the opening batsman and Kishore Rao was our captain. We won at the Islam Gymkhana. Batting with Siraj was never easy because Siraj was quiet and a solid opening batsman,” Gavaskar said, adding with a smile: “He hardly spoke a word and when he did it wasn’t in Queen’s English.”

Gavaskar said that club cricket is crucial for the development of the game.

“Club cricket is the lifeblood of our teams. Without club cricket, you will not get players who will make it to the Ranji Trophy or go on to play Tests and ODIs. That’s why club cricket becomes very important. I am happy that Police has continued its support,” he said.

“A lot of outstation players come here not necessarily to play for Mumbai but to get a feel of Mumbai cricket and learn the culture. Mumbai has been Ranji Trophy champions for 41 years, so there is the mentality and the cricketing culture which is completely different from the other cities,” Gavaskar added.

While welcoming him to the stage, the emcee narrated his illustrious records in international cricket, but missed out on his two wickets and Gavaskar pulled his leg.

“The fact is I have also got wickets. I have got a wicket in Test cricket and one in One-day cricket and those are very important. I was the perhaps the only bowler in the 1978 tour of Pakistan to have got Zaheer Abbas out for less than hundred. Otherwise, he was scoring big every time. But I will let it go and not be like my dear friend, Geoffrey Boycott,” Gavaskar joked.

He also narrated an incident when Boycott had refused to pay a cab driver in Trinidad as he had got his playing statistics wrong.

“Boycott was playing golf in Port of Spain. When he got out of the club there was a taxi waiting outside. The taxis in those days were the old Impala cars. So, Geoffrey got into the car and sat in the back with his kit. The taxi driver saw that it was Boycott and he got very excited on seeing him,” Gavaskar said.

The driver told Boycott that he was his big fan.

“He said, ‘I know every statistics. You remember in 1974-75, when you came here, you got 95 in the first innings and 107 in the second innings and that to mind was the reason why England won the Test and not because of Tony Greig. Not him maan, it was your batting.’

“He went on and on till they reached the hotel. Geoffrey got out of the car and the driver got down. Geoffrey told him, ‘listen, I did not score 95, I scored 97. I did not get 107 in the second innings, I got a 112. Anybody who takes even one run off my Test career, doesn’t deserve to get paid.”