Sunil Gavaskar, the commentator, is a hypocrite

Sports

I had written the draft of this post a few months back but was not getting a relevant enough context to push the publish button. But it wasn’t long before the subject of this post handed me the context on a platter.

Unarguably, the greatest test opener ever! His record against the West Indies is nothing but out and out heroic. Legendary stuff. Every bit deserving of the Caribbean calypso songs written for him. And as an Indian my chest fills with pride seeing some of his innings against the fast and furious foursome — Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner. The hooked six of Marshall at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi after the paceman had creamed us at Green Park, Kanpur in an earlier match gave me goosebumps. Those are incidents that have defined my unstinted admiration for this batsman.

And this was notwithstanding the perceived differences he had with the undisputed hero of my growing up days — India’s greatest natural cricketer ever — Kapil Dev. (Perhaps this was also the time I may have matured as a person — being appreciative of someone who was at odds with my hero. Objectivity holding its own against emotion.)

And then came the dropping of Kapil Dev from a test match against the visiting English team in 1984. This was a punishment for playing reckless cricket. The same reckless cricket that he played when he hit Eddie Hemmings for 4 sixes, when India were nine wickets down and needed 24 runs to avoid follow-on. The same reckless cricket he played when he hit that unbelievable 175 against Zimbabwe. The Calcuttans hated Gavaskar for Kapil Dev being dropped for quite some time. My memory is a little fuzzy here — but Gavaskar vowed never to play at Eden Gardens again after being booed by the crowds.

But soon, Gavaskar relinquished captaincy after winning the Benson & Hedges World Series Cricket championship in Australia. And a few years later he stuck to his decision to retire from cricket even when the fairytale farewell didn’t happen — India, one of the favourites — crashed out in the semi-finals of the Reliance World Cup. This was clearly the sign of a man of dignity and someone who chose to walk out rather being eased out.

Around that time, he also appeared in Sunil Gavaskar Presents — an outstanding programme, where Sunil Gavaskar — the batting legend and one of the sharper brains in world cricket — picked out and analyzed for us, some of the best cricketing performances in world cricket.

He also authored three books, Sunny Days, Idols, and One-day Wonders, the first two doing reasonably well.

Everything till here is fine.

And then something went bizarrely wrong. Sunil Gavaskar who had a newspaper column and ran a syndication service till then, became a television commentator.

Sunil Gavaskar, the commentator — notwithstanding the fact that he truly was a great cricketer — is incredulously and unfailingly petty!

He started as a very bad commentator. Hmmm-ing his way throughout. His English at best grammatically correct. Neither entertaining like Henry Blofeld’s; nor with a sense of drama like Tony Greig’s; nor is it brutally honest like Geoff Boycott’s. So much so, it is not even blatantly one-sided like Imran Khan’s (except when talking about Tendulkar during Tendukar’s not-the-best years). Now before you pounce on me with ‘why should it be any of these?’ — I am saying all this because it in any case is not what it could have been — worthy of such a genius of an opening batsman!

It gets my goat when any commentator, of course including Gavaskar, makes statements like, “The non-striker walked up to the batsman and told him to focus!” Oh! How on earth do you know that is exactly what was said? Or the contradictory clichés — “xyz should get back to basics. There is nothing like sweating it out in the nets.” Opposed to, “there is no practice like match-practice. Nothing like getting into the middle and fighting you way through it!”

Perhaps the only time he got it right was when he backed Pakistan during the 1992 World Cup, when Pakistan got off to a bad start.

Then one witnessed his anti-English statements which were clearly playing to the galleries. What I call juvenile jingoism — which he toggles with faux urbane statesmanship. In simple English? He’s a hypocrite. (BTW, this is EXACTLY what Ricky Ponting said recently when out of the blue, Gavaskar commented on the Aussies being ‘unpopular champions’). Not may people may recall this now, but Gavaskar had advised Tendulkar not to appear as a batting role model for an MCC coaching manual. Geoffery Boycott eventually appeared for that.

Incidentally, he was also the most vocal and ostensible backer of Tendulkar even in the days when Tendulkar was doing hopelessly as a captain! Of course there are very few people in India who have the courage to call a spade a spade in the context of Tendulkar — unlike a Boycott for example. But Sunil Gavaskar is the number one person I would expect to say something like — “Tendulkar is so passionate about his game that he contributes to the team’s cause in every way” when Tendulkar throws from the outfield into the wicket-keeper’s gloves on a day when Tendulkar gets out for zero!

Perhaps what substantially influenced my current opinion of Gavaskar — the commentator & writer — was his response (or lack of it) to the death of Raman Lamba. Lamba was one of the superstars of the Delhi and North Zone teams, and had successfully made it to the Indian team by the dint of tons and tons of runs (literally) he scored in the domestic tournaments. And it was he who should actually be credited for India’s first six over third man and not Virendra Sehwag! Raman Lamba after his retirement from international and domestic cricket, was helping Bangaladesh as a cricket mentor. He was fielding at a close-in position when he was hit on the forehead by a full-blooded shot. He immeditely went into coma and died a few days later. As tragic an end as possible! Sunil Gavaskar, never wrote a word of condolence about this. And I believed this was yet another instance of his pettiness against the backdrop of a traditional rivalry between North Zone (Delhi/Haryana/Punjab) — vs West Zone (Mumbai/Baroda/Maharashtra) players.

And then some days later the headline for Gavaskar’s weekly column said, “A true lover of the game”, and I said to myself, I was wrong. Gavaskar indeed was an honorable man!

BUT, the article was about Raj Singh Dungarpur’s return to an active role in the cricket administration of India. (Read as politics of BCCI!) It was Raj Singh Dungarpur who was “A true lover of the game”.

Perhaps as a reward for his feting of such “true lovers of the game” — Gavaskar has been in some key administrative positions as well. E.g. on the ICC panel of umpires. Or as the stand-in coach of the Indian cricket team when Ajit Wadekar had a heart attack mid-series. How much of a difference did he make in those roles isn’t anything worth writing about! Oh yeah, let us not forget how his son Rohan Gavaskar, was selected for the Indian team when he (Rohan) was actually past his prime!

A few more examples of his petty-mindedness were his reference to the death of David Hookes (which he subsequently apologized for, apparently); or of trying to defend Sreesanth’s provocative gesture upon taking a South African wicket, “he is just saying a namaste, which is a form of greeting in India!” Huh?

Ironically, Rohan Gavaskar, who was one of the guests on TV show on cricket a few days back, was so much better and perceptibly more honest than his father!

I realize, this is turning out into an endless rant, so let me wind off with this bit of partially related trivia. Ravi Shastri was once asked to comment on the commercial endorsements by cricketers — and he said something to this effect: ‘If we (Kapil Dev and Shastri) are accused of being the leading cricketers in terms of commercial deals, then Sunil Gavaskar is ‘hum sabka baap’.

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36 thoughts on “Sunil Gavaskar, the commentator, is a hypocrite

  1. Jammy:
    Not even with a disclaimer, eh?

    Dave:
    Print columns and I guess the sports hour on ESPN/Star Sports. Not to forget the ‘podcasts on Yahoo’ — that Jammy manages, I guess :)

    Sobia:
    But isn’t it a two-way cutting sword?

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  2. so very true. also he always played 4 d records. hope u guys remember him asking his team not 2 bay after being adjudged LBW. and now he blabbers about sportsmanship. also just keeps giving tendulkar his blind support.

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  3. What a timely article. Gavaskar, falling a new low for even his craven standards, recently recommended Emburey for the position of Indian coach! Even Emburey was dumbfounded. And when the Indian press hauled him (Gavaskar) over the coals for this, Gavaskar angrily pointed to his years of contribution to Indian cricket. This man conveniently wears two mantles: one of cricketing legend above criticism, and the other of journalist who criticizes everyone except himself, his friends and his family. What a convenient arrangement! In another day and age he would have been an inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson.

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  4. Naveen: As far as playing for the records is concerned, I think Tendulkar has outdone Gavaskar by far.

    Jay: A little more search (follow Suneer’s blog link below your comment) and you find there is widespread outpouring over Gavaskar having lost it completely.

    Suneer: We are not in a minority on this issue. A lot of people (including you) are writing about this and with a lot more vigour than I did.

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    1. I cannot agree more.Tendulakar is a gud player but when he is in 80s, he can only think abt his 100.he will take single to reach the hundred when at that time( arounf 45 overs),India needed boundaries.Its players like Robin singh who are real heroes

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  5. Rahul: Thanks for the link. I am glad that journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai and Mukul Kesavan finally pointed out the conflict of interest involved in being both a cricket columnist and a policy maker.

    What amazes me is that the Pakistani team seems to have landed on its feet despite the Woolmer controversy and are actively (and so far, successfully) courting Whatmore, Lawson and Done. India, who had Whatmore ready to sign on the dotted line, insulted him and are now coachless after being jilted by Ford and (thankfully) Emburey. Such a reversal of fortunes must be incomprehensible to anyone who is unfamiliar with the giant egos that continue to lead Indian cricket into the abyss of failure but even I can’t believe that one man can wantonly cause so much damage.

    To top it all, Gavaskar has the gall to point our Ricky Ponting’s shortcomings as a human being. As an Indian I apologize to Ponting for the ravings of this overgrown infant although Ponting is quite capable of defending himself.

    Another thing. I am sure the Indian team prefers sledging over (back)stabbing. I mean who has harmed Indian cricket’s long term future prospects more: Ponting or Gavaskar. And any patriotic zealots out there: Before you answer, think. Your head is not an ornament!!! I am referring to the future, not the past. The future is what’s in front, not the glorious things that happened two decades ago.

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  6. Anonymous (I assume Jay):
    I like your “…overgrown infant…” allegory to describe the current Gavaskar. Though I like my “…juvenile jingoism…” description too :)

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  7. This is easily the most ridiculous , biased , factually incorrect & insane piece of write up . I too (like Rahul Razdan) come from north , but this article makes north indians hang their heads in shame ! Point by point , i can demolish each & every argument made in this trash of a column , by Mr Razdan. But is it worth it ?? After all , who is Rahul Razdan?? Still a couple of things must be said .

    Rahul Razdan says upto end of his playing days, Gavaskar was perfect . Trouble began when took up commentary . There cant be a bigger joke on earth . Gavaskar’s command over queen’s english is amazing , probably best among all Indian sportsmen. He is one person who calls a spade a spade . He defends Indian cricket like noone else ever did . His comments about englishmen are not playing to the gallery , rather correct crisp ones . Highly appreciated by a vast majority except may be a few of you in gross minority . In fact , Indian cricket owes him so much for what he has done post retirement , leave alone his playing days . As far as playing for records is concerned, the same thing can be said about Kapil Dev as well . That he took 435 + wickets for himself rather than for the country , and for doing that kept extending his career by at least 3 years despite being past his best . Gavaskar quit in 1987 when he hit a masterly 96 on a minefield of a pitch at Banglore against Imran Khan & Co , and was good enough for at least 2 more years !! He is the most sought after commentator , unlike Rahul razdan whose name nobody ever heard as a columist .

    Great job Sunnybhai! keep it up . You dont have to respond to every dog like Rahul Razdan . We millions of your fans are adequate to sort out such rogues !!

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  8. Shirish:
    Awesome comment mate! As you yourself said, you are another (1 of the ‘we millions’) prick in the wall! Or was that brick…whatever…
    And oh! You just sorted me out :-p

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  9. Shirish and Gaurav:

    You are the kind of menials who perpetuate feudalism, caste and such other horrors in India. From your servile standpoint only established names can express opinions which of course begs the question, how did they get established in the first place. At least Rahul is trying to be something unlike sheep like you who are only capable of respectful worship of authority. I pity your children if you [ever] have any. I am sure your message to them will be: “Don’t you dare speak, there are famous people in the room.” Like you they will be sheep.

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  10. Gaurav:
    ‘Whole heartedly agreeing’ (with Shirish) shows you are a great team-player. So, did you make it to Sunny’s team, eh?
    No???? Tch. Tch. Sour grapes, I tell you. :-p

    Anonymous:
    Thanks for your support. The sad part is so many people are unable to see *shades*. Everything is either black or white!

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  11. Reading some of the anti-SMG comments here, I cannot understand why anyone would want to play for India. Sunny has given his all on the pitch, and is now a columnist and commentator. People (the vast majority) WANT to hear what he has to say. He has “been there, done that and got the Tee-shirt” so knows full well what goes through a cricketer’s head at various points in an innings/spell/match.

    And as for him being a hypocrite, I don’t think he is. But I think deep-down, we all are all hypocritical to some extent.

    So…… instead of posting BS, if you don’t like his commentary, mute the bloody TV. If you don’t like his columns, don’t read them.

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  12. Honest Joe:
    Of course you are right that “we all are all (sic) hypocritical to some extent”. Look at you for instance — telling me to mute the television or not reading his columns; instead of posting BS… The same holds true for you mate! As far as I can recall I never beseeched you to come and read what I wrote. And if you didn’t like what I wrote — you could also have closed the browser window instead of posting a ‘BS’ comment, eh!
    Having said that, we are all entitled to our opinions, right?

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  13. Srikanth:
    Here’s more BS, responding to your exalted comment! And about your lost 3 mins, go kiss SG’s ass. After all they say, a kiss adds 3 minutes to your life! :-p

    Anonymous:
    Thanks for appreciating.

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  14. who the fuck are u man?? Do u know him personally to judge him??
    well ,he did’nt write about Raman Lamba …so what? who are you to judge…He don’t have to write about every single person who dies…
    does it make him a bad person??

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  15. gavaskar is the longest running infantile comedy . his comments always try to show him as a super-patriot.he would always criticise the whites,and of course get all his dollars from espn. called emburey, who is a nobody and thus placated his english friends. biggest joke. scheming,petty,destructive and completly off-balance. he needs a high quality shrink . i think he is sick and i hope he gets well after treatment. what else can u say about someone who is always itching for a fight.

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  16. Atleast someone got the balls to write this honest artcle. BTW, I have heard that Gavaskar was once denied an entry into the Oval.. coz the gatekeeper refused to recognise him. Is that true??

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  17. @ Dipankar:: Thanks! But I must point out that my views here are only about Gavaskar’s non-playing roles. But Gavaskar, the cricketer, I regard as one of the sport’s all-time best.

    I haven’t heard about the Oval incident you refer to. But then I am sure, an average guard in India might also not recognize Allan Border or Viv Richards or Ian Botham :-)

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  18. Hey, this is a late reply, but just wanted to clarify – Gavaskar was indeed refused entry, but it was not at the Oval, but at Lord’s in 1990. He retaliated by refusing the membership of the MCC, if I remember correctly. I really think that the incident brought out the anti-Pom streak in him, which has never left him. By the way, this is an excellent article. I adored Gavaskar the cricketer (more than Kapil, incidentally) but as a commentator, I detest him. Hate the way in which he tries to sound suave and the phony accent he has developed – Sachin Tendoooooolkar, Aneeeeeeeeel Kumble, etc., and of course, the “oh ho ho ho” whenever something surprising happens.

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  19. sunil gavaskar please quit …. ireland vs west indies world cup match , u should get the worst commentator award totally senseless u were ….and wilson was clearly not out and u talk about sportsman spirit hahah …

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  20. Sunil Gavaskar is a true hero and a champion. Wonder why people cannot appreciate true talent and commend people of their success in life. I agree, this is complete bull shit…

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  21. Among all the cricket commentators I have listened to Sunny is the worst. I sometimes wonder why such a great player like him who has already earned a lot money make such a caricature of himself for more money. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a consummate hypocrite . Its a torture to listen to him. I have already known what he is going to say next. So when his turn comes i mute the tv.

    This said, most commentators are rubbish. I give a hoot for them. I am old enough to understand cricket myself. It is an easy thing. I can see it in my open eyes. What is there to interprete? Commentating is their job. They do it for money and power. I dont get paid for being attentive to their nonsensical utterings. We the viewer should be aware of one thing. It is humanly impossible not to talk nonsense when one has to talk for hours day in day out for a decade. So, just watch. Dont listen.

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  22. What a rubbish article. Fine Gavaskar is patriotic, and defends Tendulkar no matter what. So big deal.
    Maybe he doesn’t like westerners, again so big deal . It’s not like westerners dont have a history of being hypocritical, racist scum.
    Rahul, you’re an idiot, mate.

    Like

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