Sunil Gavaskar has been associated with most of India’s one-day cricket journey, be it as a player, commentator or in some other capacity. The legendary opener had faced the first ball when India played its first-ever ODI at Leeds in 1974 and made 28 off 35 balls.
Gavaskar featured in 108 one-dayers, including matches in four World Cups, scoring 3092 runs in 102 innings at an average of 35.13. Besides being a part of the 1983 World Cup-winning side, fondly called Kapil’s Devils, Gavaskar, as captain, led India to the Benson and Hedges World Championship triumph in Melbourne in 1985.
India played its 1000th ODI on Sunday in Ahmedabad against the West Indies. The former India captain spoke to The Telegraph on the team’s odyssey in this format.
• The Telegraph: You played in India’s first-ever ODI in 1974, at Leeds against England, and hit the first six in a match India eventually lost by four wickets. Any special memories?
The memory is essentially of a very grassy pitch where the ball was seaming around quite a bit. Brijesh Patel (who top scored with 82 off 78 balls in India’s total of 265) batted really well on a tough surface.
• Was it because of lack of one-day cricket that India struggled to get used to the format initially? Could that be blamed as the reason behind India’s failures in the 1975 and 1979 World Cups in England?
India hardly had any one-day domestic tournaments then. There was club cricket of course, but the batting upbringing then was not to hit the ball in the air and so not many sixes were seen even in club cricket.
• The 1983 World Cup win is reckoned as a turning point towards revolutionising Indian cricket and will remain the greatest triumph. Did you realise its far-reaching implications then?
No, at that time we didn’t understand the significance of that win.
• Don’t you think that India’s win against the West Indies in the second ODI at Berbice (on March 29, 1983) set the ball rolling for the Lord’s triumph? That ODI win never got the appreciation it deserved…
That win definitely gave us the confidence that we could beat a top team, and then when we beat them again in the first match of our 1983 campaign, the belief in our ability to beat any team strengthened.
• While Kapil Dev won India’s first World Cup, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s victory came 28 years later. How do you rate and compare their achievements?
Comparing two wins from different eras is comparing apples and oranges. Both were wonderful wins that gave Indian cricket lovers plenty to cheer and be proud about.
• India also won the B&H World Championship under your captaincy in 1985. Coming as it did after the World Cup triumph, did it in a way confirm India’s status as a force in one-day cricket?
It proved that our 1983 win was not a fluke.
• Who would you think could rank among the top-3 Indian captains in ODI cricket and why?
The two captains whose teams won the World Cup would definitely be the best.
• In terms of balance and performance, which team would you reckon India’s best one-day side over the years and why?
I know am going to upset my teammates of 1983 but in terms of balance and sheer ability, the 2011 team under Dhoni has to be the best that I have seen. Remember, nobody expected us to win in 1983, but in 2011, not just Indians but most of the cricketing world expected India to win. To play under the humongous pressure of those expectations and win the World Cup is a testament to that team’s talent and temperament.
• Do you agree that one-day cricket is loaded in favour of the batsmen after rule changes like the introduction of two balls and the field restrictions?
There have been many changes that have skewed the balance towards the batsmen. Introduction of the white ball which hardly swings, field restrictions, bouncer restrictions, boundaries made shorter are some changes that makes the bowlers’ task harder than before.
• Would you favour any changes to the format, especially given the threat from T20 cricket, to make it more competitive?
Yes, I would love to see limited-overs cricket played with a pink ball with the boundaries pushed back as much as fielder safety demands. Leg byes done away with in all forms of the game and no overthrows if the fielder has scored a direct hit on the stumps.