Sunil Gavaskar turns 75: All other teams just wanted his wicket; they felt if he got out, they’d get us all – Kapil Dev

    – Kapil Dev (as told to Rasesh Mandani)

    I often joke with Sunil that he played for 20 years, but for 40 years, he has been talking cricket. And I would say, even as he turns 75, that it is anything but easy. It tells you so much about his knowledge and love for the game, and for a younger cricketer, there’s still so much to learn from him.

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    To get big runs against the best fast bowlers; not just of that era but some of the best fast bowlers of all time, you have to be a special talent. It may seem hard to believe now that it was an era when India did not have proper resources to plan and prepare but he still found a way to excel. And that tells you so much more about him than the numbers alone could.

    A guide

    As somebody who was senior to me, I often looked up to him as a God. I was like, ‘Wow, someone who I admired so much as a kid, and I am getting to share the dressing room with him’. It was a great feeling.

    I still remember the first advice he gave me when we were playing in the Wills Trophy. Even though we were opponents in that match, he came up to me and said, “Kapil, when you bowl from close to the wicket, I find it difficult to pick your outswing. When you bowl away from the crease, I can see the ball coming in and moving.”

    To get a compliment from a great player when I was just starting out was a great boost. You knew it mattered because it was something that even coaches would not be able to spot.

    Lone ranger

    The early years weren’t easy for him though. We had our wins in 1971 (West Indies and England) but unfortunately, when Sunil started, I felt we didn’t have a team to win matches regularly. This also meant that he had to prioritise not losing and would often have the biggest contributions in such causes. It took a while, but gradually, things began to change.

    Also Read: Sunil Gavaskar at 75 – The OG Little Master who knew no fear

    A measure of his greatness could be seen in how the opposition would plan for him. Ninety percent of their time was spent in framing a strategy to get Gavaskar out. They would feel, ‘Get Gavaskar, and you can get the team’. And that is the pressure and responsibility he played with. But the little genius would always know how to handle the big guys.

    It was a time when every team had genuinely quick bowlers. Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan, Dennis Lillee, Bob Willis… you name them, he was the one who would stand up to them and still score.

    Also Read: ‘I am what I am because of cricket,’ says Sunil Gavaskar on 75th birthday

    Nobody could, or rather can, compare to him. He was the one who gave confidence to Indian cricket; he gave us confidence about how to play. He was truly one of the best professional cricketers from India and for that era, he was a wonderful role model. He taught us how to professional, how to be sincere with your game, and how to approach the game.

    Personal relations

    I personally feel, Sunil should have been the captain in the 1983 World Cup. He was more mature and senior. Later, it was equally wrong that they threw me out as captain. That was when I was learning more about the game and captaining a side. The way things were handled from the outside, it was sad.

    It never came in the way of our performance for the team. It does not matter who is leading. You are representing your country. When I was playing under Sunil, I was still representing India and the same was true for him as well. The team always came first.

    All I would tell Sunil today is, “Friend, enjoy your 75th well with your family and friends. You have done more than any other cricketer would for our country.”

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