Kapil Dev sowed the seeds for India's fast-bowling riches, says Sunil Gavaskar

Gavaskar pays tribute to other Indian legends and provides a bird's-eye-view of Indian cricket since its early days at the 26th Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial Lecture.

Sunil Gavaskar delivering the 26th Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial Lecture.   -  ABHISHEK MUKHERJEE

Recounting distinctive phases of Indian cricket with characteristic sobriety and the odd touch of humour, Sunil Gavaskar, delivering the 26th Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial Lecture at the National Museum here, provided perspective to its global might today.

The 70-year-old Gavaskar, who himself represented an era in the 1970s and 80s alongside others, paid humble tribute to the contributions of a number of cricketers, including three eminent players who played alongside him for India — Ajit Wadekar, Gundappa Viswanath and Kapil Dev. He narrated what qualities they brought forth to sow the seeds for a better future.

Crediting Kapil for bring “joie de vivre” to India, he said, “His greatest legacy was to show the budding India fast bowler that even on pitches without much assistance to them, they could take wickets. If today India has a cornucopia of fast bowlers, it is thanks to Kapil Dev.”

Wadekar, he said, brought in a winning mentality under his captaincy that culminated in the World Cup win in 1983. India had come a long way since the early days when it didn't have enough confidence in its own ability.

Yet, a team could not always win, and Gavaskar admitted that some of the teams he played for had “rubbish” being thrown at them by spectators. He contrasted this with the reception Lala Amarnath is said to have got after scoring the first Test century by an Indian — against England in Mumbai in December, 1933 — when women threw jewellery at him. “This has baffled me,” Gavaskar said dryly, “as when we did well, nobody threw valuables at us.”

He was quick to add that the Indian spectator had matured “since the violent days of the 1960s, 70s and 80s.”

“Today's spectator is a lot better off than those days when frustration with how some of their lives were shaping made them take it out on the players from the teams that lost,” he said.

It wasn't just the contributions of cricketers that helped the game blossom, he noted; the change in the financial situation of the BCCI, too, played a big role.

The clout had increased further since the advent of the Indian Premier League, but Gavaskar sounded a warning:

“Today the IPL dominates even the Ranji Trophy, and unless the playing fees for the first-class cricketer is substantially increased, he will always feel like the orphan and poor cousin of Indian cricket.”