For Sunil Gavaskar it was a trip down memory lane when he delivered the ML Jaisimha memorial lecture at the Jaisimha Academy here on Monday.

Clearly struggling to control his emotions, the batting great said he remains a fan of Jai forever.

“For me to visit this Academy and speak a little about my hero is a privilege and a pleasure,” he said.

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“My first memories of seeing a black and white pic of Jai in 1959. I don’t know the reason but since then I became a huge fan of him,” Gavaskar said.

“Of course, one of my fondest memories was seeing Jai train with the Indian team at the Brabourne Stadium (Mumbai) once. Me and my good friend Milind Rege were waiting to have a glimpse of him with our faces coming out through the fencing. Then, when a batsman hit a ball it came to us right in front of us we made a valiant efforts to collect it and then we saw Jai running towards us. The first words he said to us were - don’t worry boys, leave it, I will take it,”
Gavaskar recalled.

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“And, to play with him later on for India later on the 1971 tour to West Indies is something unforgettable. Yes, I did feel to share 350 of the 774 runs I scored in that series with Jai and Salim uncle (Durani). For, the two were dropped for the England tour which followed immediately,” he said.

“I always felt that Jai’s career went up and down after he was pushed up to open the innings after his early stint in the middle-order. And, not many are aware that Jai opened the bowling for India 13 times. He was a true all-rounder,” he said.

With eyes turning wet, Gavaskar said that every year on March 3 (Jaisimha’s birthday March 3, 1939) he would get up and say happy birthday Jai. “But,after he passed away on July 7 (July 7, 1999) , I was not wanting to get up on that day,” he said, turning towards Jayanti Jaisimha (wife of Jaisimha) on the dais.

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“I remember coming on that fateful day to Hyderabad. Before that I didn’t want to see him in any sort of pain. But, after my wife told me that I was selfish in not visiting my hero. But, whe she said just think how Jai would feel when you see him then I took the morning flight and went to Jai’s place. Sat with him for sometime. He was pressing my hands. Luckily, he looked the way I wanted him to be. But, felt terrible when told that he may not last more than 48 hours,” Gavaskar recalled.

“Coincidentally, July 7 is also the birthday of one of India’s greatest cricketers MSD (Dhoni). And, I am a big fan of his too, for he reminds me a lot of Jai and lifts up my mood whenever I see him,” he said.