On his 60th birthday, a tribute to the voice the Whites don’t want to listen to…
By Kashinath Bhattacharjee
Little did Zinedine Zidane know what he was doing in the World cup final 2006 was a la Gavaskar!
Protest when humanity is humiliated. They took the pain themselves. Sacrificed personal glory and paid the price dearly. For the rest of their lives, they would not forget it. People concerned will not let them forget it either. But they do not repent doing what they did. They stood firm. And they are continuing their fight to eradicate slang from the playgrounds to make them truly greener.
It’s a crusade for both of them.
Sunil Gavaskar began the charity at the ‘home’ of slangs, some twenty eight years before. In Melbourne, 1981. The only difference with Zidane was, he was red-carded even before the incident by one of the patriotic men in White coat. He was fighting a great personal battle, concentrated really hard to get to 70 and out of the blue came a stunning leg before decision when he had, actually, hit the ball with his bat.
Dennis Keith Lillee, the Aussie version of Marco Materazzi, came to bow before him, just to touch his pads to show the exact spot where his delivery had hit the Indian skipper. The beauty of sport is, you cannot argue with the decision of the on-field judge, even if you know he is wrong. Gavaskar was taking the most painful walk back to the dressing room when he passed a group of Aussie cricketers. As usual, they used some of the choicest words regarding his family, his birth and so on. He was in no mood to be at the receiving end of such nuisance.
So, the Indian skipper came back, pulled his opening partner Chetan Chouhan out of the ground in an effort to concede the match. No point in continuing a game with the people as polluted as the opposition were, simple! The Indian manager intervened, the game continued. The outburst was against the derogatory remark passed by the Aussie cricketers, not against the dubious verdict of the umpire. Aussie media, naturally, made a fiasco. The Aussies got what they wanted. A scope to poke at Gavaskar whenever he had raised his voice against sledging. Ricky Ponting, too, did not need any further indulgence to attack the batsman who had no fewer than 13 hundreds against the West Indies in those days without the aid of the helmets, covered pitches and lightning fast willows. That’s what we call ‘true Aussie-ism’!
Post-retirement, his greatest contribution to the game is, to fight against sledging and every derogatory remark passed by any of the cricketers out in the field to one of the opponent cricketer. His logic is, again, simple. Because you are playing against a particular player, it does not provide you the right to disgrace a human being, irrespective of his colour and nationality. He is a homo sapiens, treat him as a human being. You can obviously poke at his abilities or the lack of it, point towards his weaknesses, but no verbal volleys below the belt. And he had never forgotten to exemplify that the best in the business of fast bowling – the Roberts, the Garners, the Holdings, the Marshalls – did use the ‘cherry’ to talk, nor their lips.
So, there were no doubts in his mind that the Ponting and Co. might be ‘feared and respected’, but were not ‘adored’ as the world champions.
Bat was his battleship. Pen, his sword.
With bat in his hand, he had denied the deadliest of fast bowlers the history of the game has ever seen. With pen in his fingers, he had successfully refused submission to the mightiest of the Blue-blooded cricketers and administrators.
Cricket, is clearly divided in Black and White, no questions. If you happen to be a Basille De’Oliviera or a Muttiah Muralitharan, you are supposed to be either thrown out of your country’s touring party, or called for throwing! There is no mid-way.
His is the loudest voice against this discrimination. True, Imran Khan and Arjuna Ranatunga did their best to be placed joint second, but SMG, as he was in reaching the milestone of ten thousand runs in test cricket, placed comfortably at the first place in his “Crusade” for making the Whites realize where they stand.
Like what is being preached in the Australian media – fully supported by the enlightened section of the Indian cricket media, too! – that Sourav Ganguly did not do justice to his stature of an international skipper by forcing the opponent skipper Steve Waugh to wait outside the Indian dressing room, in the 2001 series, before going to toss.
SMG was candid in his observation. What he wrote was: “It is the duty of the home skipper to go to the touring team’s dressing room to call him to go for the toss. If the touring skipper waits there with a couple of photographers from his own country that can never be the fault of the home skipper.” Truth, they say, is always as simple as this!
At the Grace gate of the Lord’s, he was denied entry to the ground by a security-person, necessarily White. His reply was again, simple. He refused to be honoured by the organization. He should not have done so, opined one of his teammates. For that teammate, MCC was omni-potent and any reward coming from the Whites, had to be accepted gladly. “Beg my pardon”, SMG distanced himself from such (whi)teasing thoughts!
When you go through his comments in one of his recent columns on the issue of security for the second edition of the IPL, you know where it hurt him the most.
“Of course in today’s world, no security can be foolproof anywhere in the world including England but does that mean sport should come to a standstill? More crucially, the question is if it was the Ranji Trophy clashing with the general elections would there be such a big issue made out of it as is being done with the IPL? Are we to presume that overseas lives are far more precious than Indian lives?”
He is definitely that voice of Indian cricket the Whites don't want to listen to!