SMG: A biography of Sunil Manohar Gavaskar
By Devendra Prabhudesai, Rupa, Rs 395
In the pantheon of cricket, the statue of Sunil Manohar Gavaskar is deservingly encased in gold and studded with diamonds. His phenomenal achievements have been the subject of books by a number of authors. The tales of his achievements, adventures and the accolades he received have been told several times over. How then is Devendra Prabhudesaiís recent biography of Gavaskar any different from the previous ones?
There isnít much of a difference in the content. The mould, too, is similar. Gavaskarís stupendous contribution to cricket as player, columnist, commentator and as a member of various influential committees has been delineated in detail. Gavaskar was a pioneer in many ways. He was also the vanguard of most movements by players against the cricket officialdom.
Yet, these 500-plus pages have not done justice to the wide canvas that the man offers. Why is the Sunil Gavaskar Cricket Foundation, based in Calcutta, not mentioned even once? The young Indians made full use of the opportunities that the Foundation offered during the five tours to England from 2001. Or for that matter, where are the references to Gavaskarís close association with a Bengali daily for more than two decades?
Prabhudesai, however, has done an excellent job by highlighting the ethos of Mumbai cricket. Stalwarts such as Vijay Merchant, Kamal Bhandarkar, Polly Umrigar, Vasu Paranjpe and Vinoo Mankad among others have been given their rightful due. These are the men who helped make Mumbai the strongest first-class side in domestic cricket.
These men and their exploits inspired Gavaskar as well as other players like Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Ashok Mankad, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sandeep Patil, Vinod Kambli and Sachin Tendulkar. It is the unyielding spirit of the Mumbaikars that has laid the foundation of Mumbaiís dominance of Indian cricket.
Prabhudesai also remembers the early days of Indian cricket. In a short summary, he has given the reader a glimpse of the heritage of Indian cricket. Beginning with the Mumbai clubs in the 1850s, he writes about the Parsi influence, the princely patronage, the inter-community tournaments and the inception of international cricket. Although Palwankar Baloo and D.B. Deodhar have been highlighted very appropriately, the great Parsi cricketer, M.E. Pavri, has been ignored. Pavri was the architect of numerous victories of the Parsi teams over their European opponents in the late -18th-and-early-19th century. He was certainly the first Indian cricketer of international renown, leaving aside Ranjitsinhji who hardly ever played in India.
Gavaskarís early days at Tardeo and Dadar form a very important part of the book. His association with Milind Rege from childhood through school and college makes for interesting reading. The influence Gavaskarís parents had on him, the values he imbibed, his talent and his desire to succeed against all odds have combined to make him the champion that he was and will always be. The author has brought his subjectís sterling qualities to the fore very diligently.
Gavaskarís astounding performances in the Cooch Behar Trophy and in the Rohinton Baria Trophy pitchforked him into the Test arena in 1971. For close to two decades, he was the worldís premier batsman. So accustomed were we to see him succeed every time that any score less than a hundred was thought to be a failure. He was the first player to break Sir Donald Bradmanís record of 29 centuries, and he was also the first batsman to reach 10,000 runs in Test cricket which was thought to be an impossible milestone at that time.
The various controversies created by Gavaskar have also been mentioned on these pages. The author cites Gavaskarís slow batting in the 1975 World Cup, the Ďwalkoutí in Melbourne in 1981, the time-wasting tactic in collusion with Dilip Doshi as well as Gavaskarís comments on David Hookes. However, Prabhudesai has made an earnest attempt to remind readers that Gavaskar himself had apologized for these episodes. This only shows that Gavaskar has the courage to accept the fact that he did make some mistakes and is willing to apologize for them.
The statistical part should have been more carefully edited. Gavaskar made his unofficial Test debut against Sri Lanka just prior to the tour of England. The book is well written, and the author deserves to be complimented. The photographs are an added bonus.