I need not tell you who Sunil Manohar Gavaskar is. But for records, I will write a few lines about him. In his first test series, he played away matches against a very strong West Indies and scored 774 runs. A record! He played his last international match at the Lords, MCC Vs World XI and scored 180 runs! He was the first player to score ten thousand plus runs in test career.
But I am not writing about the Sunil the cricketer. He has played his second innings as gracefully and smartly as one can. Sunil is my contemporary, though I don’t know him personally. He went to St Xavier’s school and College in Bombay. I lived nearby and have seen him practising during school and college days. So, I will refer to him as Sunil.
Sunil is well educated, a Master’s Degree and a polished person. He is very forthright in his views and has handled his post-playing career with aplomb. He had very sound technique and overcame many menacing attacks from different bowlers. He could have easily become a selector, a coach or a guide! He could have become a great mentor. But he had decided that he will not impose his sound knowledge on next generation cricketers. He became a critic and commentator. He never took any executive position; there was only one aberration. He became IPL chief for a year because the situation almost forced him to help the Cricket Board.
Why he must have remained away from his involvement post-retirement, is what I am trying to understand or guess. First of all, he knew exactly when to walk away and retire. This is what current women’s cricketer Mitali Raj has not understood. She created a situation where people almost asked her to retire at least from T20 matches. Sunil got the hang of one-day technique at the fag end of his career. Initially, during one match he scored 36 not out in 60 overs! I am sure Sunil understood his limitation in one-day matches. Great Sachin Tendulkar also opted out of T20 first world cup in South Africa; I am sure he must have felt that he is not good enough by his standard. Sachin should have retired from other forms of cricket a year earlier! Kapil Dev did not understand this and he almost met the fate of being removed from the team.
In life, all of us retire at some stage. Some people continue to work in the same area of their expertise. Some become general consultants. Many people don’t realize that in the technology area, things change quite fast and the retirees may not be up to date with the same. In software parlance, one may know old platforms like Cobol or Visual Basic, maybe even Java. But things have changed so much that retirees may not know much details about the new platforms.
Going away gracefully into Sunset is important in life! Though Sunil and Kohli may be at the same level technically, Kohli is aggressive by nature, like most modern cricketers. Such differences need to be understood by retirees.
A friend of mine handled this gracefully! He was running a manufacturing setup and his son, also a good engineer, joined him. My friend decided that he should retire and started withdrawing from day to day activities. Six months passed but he found that the staff always went to him for advice. He realized that he did not know about many issues as he had started withdrawing. His son was now around 50 but still he was being by passed many times! One fine day my friend decided that he would completely stop going to his manufacturing setup. He stayed away for six months! During this period the staff started discussing each and everything with his son. When he started going to office after six months, only his son would come to him discuss issues and seek his help; others stopped coming to him. He achieved his goal of going into retirement, though once in a while his son would involve him!
One needs to accept fact of life that Sunil had made a record of 36 runs in 60 overs in one day match; whereas Kohli sometimes scores run at the strike rate 150 runs per 100 balls. This is a sign of major change in technique and temperament! A great player like Sunil realized this very early after retirement, but most of us don’t! This has earned him a great respect from the new generation! Sachin Tendulkar was the first person to score 200 runs in a one-day match, that against a very strong bowling attack led by Dale Steyn! Sunil was a commentator for the match. He said, “I must touch Sachin’s feet for what he has done today!” Everybody thought that it was just his way of complimenting Sachin. Later, when Sunil met Sachin face to face, on a cricket field, for one match, he actually touched Sachin’s feet to great embarrassment to Sachin! This is how Sunil respected the quality of play!
Pragmatism and practicality have been Sunil’s main qualities but more than that his humility is what shows his greatness! All these qualities indicate that Darwin’s theory is applicable to Cricketers too! Better, fitter and aggressive cricketers will keep on coming. Prithvi Shaw, the modern-day opener so much unlike Sunil, plays cricket in a very different aggressive manner! Sunil will never compare his own batting with that of Shaw!
Besides all the traits shown by Sunil, detachment is the one I like the most! He got himself detached so beautifully, absolving his involvement totally, never getting involved in any execution role, in any capacity. Of course, he could not remain away from cricket but he managed to take a role which was expected to be neutral, which was to talk and comment about performance of the team and players, from both sides and not only about Indian players.
By detachment, I do not mean that you should take sanyas or plunge into spirituality! Non detachement is one of the main reasons for conflicts in families when the prodigal son gets married but the mother wants to keep control of the kitchen! In olden days, the mother of the house used to have a “challa” or keychain which had keys to all the cupboards, storerooms in a home. Power remained with the keychain. Keychain is the metaphor for the Power! Nowadays, girls get married late, many are highly educated and are experts at handling many different things in professional life. They feel deprived of power a home because they don’t have the keychain with them.
I have seen what the wiser among these young girls do after marriage! Once they know that keychain is out of bounds for them, they accept the situation smilingly and then always join the lunch, dinner or breakfast with a smiling face, only to eat! They are “always in a hurry” and with a very sweet smile they praise the meal, of course, cooked by the mother and run out quickly and tell their mother dear to take care of remaining stuff too! After all, they are in a rush!