By Gurmukh Singh
MISSISSAUGA: Promoting MoneyGram, the global money transfer giant, in the Greater Toronto Area, cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar says the Indian Premier League is a very good thing to happen to cricket.
Taking volleys of questions from his adoring fans here Tuesday at a MoneyGram dinner, Gavaskar said the IPL has created cricket as a professional option for players. While previously players could not think of cricket for livelihood unless they had played at the national level. But now they can.
“Now players make so much money within a few weeks of the IPL season that cricket has become a viable profession for lots of people. You don’t need to be an Indian player to earn livelihood from cricket now,” Gavaskar said.
Another big benefit to accrue from the IPL, the little master said, is that international players now understand one another a lot better. “As a result, animosity between international players have lessened as they spend six weeks together in a dressing room. They come to understand each others’ cricket culture better when they spend so much time together.
“Though they are fierce and competitive when they play against each other for their respective countries, that old animosity is gone because they have played together for the IPL. I think that is the biggest plus to emerge from the IPL.”
But for the little master, Srikkanth was his best opening partner. “As my opening partner, Srikkanth somehow liberated me as a batsman. He used to encourage me to play the shots that I wouldn’t otherwise offer. He had a positive influence.”
He recalled his encounters with the world’s best fast bowlers.
Gavaskar, who never wore a helmet, said fast bowlers are fierce creatures, and if you try to please them by saying `good morning’, it is taken a sign of the batsman’s capitulation.
“Fast bowlers give no quarters,” he said.
Recounting one such incident amid laugher, Gavaskar said, “The legendary West Indian fast bowler Joel Garner and I shared a flat when we both played for Somerset in 1980. We had a great time together. Then came the 1983 World Cup, and Joel was bowling to me fiercely. After he bowled a few balls and I couldn’t score, I walked up to him as he was on his way back to his bowling mark: `Hey Big Bird (Joel nickname), how about bowling a half-valley to let your former roommate to get off the mark.’ He said to me: `No, man. This is World Cup.’ That’s how fast bowlers are.”
Asked why he was opposed to the proposed India-Pakistani series, Gavaskar said his opposition had two reasons. One is the packed cricket schedule of the Indian cricket team in the coming month. “My second reason to oppose the series, being a Mumbaikar, was emotional one (because of the 26/11 terror attacks). But this second reason got played up in the media.”
However, he said he is not opposed India and Pakistan playing soon together. `Nothing to beat the adrenaline rush of an India-Pakistan cricket match as they both have had quality players over the years and they give their best.”
Asked about prospects of cricket in Canada, he said this country should have many cricket turfs and then it should prevail upon the International Cricket Committee to arrange international teams coming to the West Indies to play here on their way to/back from the Caribbean.
Jokingly referring to their frugal match fee when he started playing for India, Gavaskar said, “We used to get just one pound per day on foreign tours in those days. But the beauty of MoneyGram is that today you can send even one dollar (or pound) home to India! I look forward to my partnership with them (MoneyGram).”
According to MoneyGram, which has a five-year agreement with the International Cricket Association (ICC), “Sunil Gavaskar will serve as ambassador for the company as part of its multi-year agreement” with cricket’s governing body worldwide.
MoneyGram is also organising a contest to select `the Ultimate Cricket Fan’ to serve as its “ambassador, reporter and blogger during the (ICC World Twenty20) matches in September and October.”