DAY AT THE STUDIO
If ever there was any batsman in the
game of cricket who was meant to be an opener, it had to be
the 5ft 4-inch Bombay genius Sunil Manohar Gavaskar. Such
have been the deeds of this great batsman that words often
fail to describe them. He was simply the "most complete
opening batsman."Sunil "Sunny" Gavaskar is
a record-setting batsman and a national hero to India's cricket
fans. His spectacular professional career began with a bang:
in his Test debut series against West Indies (1971) he scored
a record 774 runs. He has had 81 first class centuries (or
hundreds) and scored a total of 25,834 runs, including 10,122
runs in Test cricket (he was the first batsman to score 10,000
runs in Test). In the 1980s Gavaskar, called "The Little
Master" (he's 5' 4"), dominated Indian cricket and
became famous for his meticulous approach as well as his distinctive
headgear. After his retirement in 1988 he became a commentator
and columnist. He has also authored several cricket books
and an autobiography, Sunny Days
(1980). He has been a long time devotee of Bhagavan.
In September 2003, Gavaskar(GAV) visited
the Prasanthi Digital Studio and shared his views on two of
his greatest passions- Swami and Cricket. In conversation
with him was Shri G Venkataraman(GV), formerly the Vice Chancellor
of the Sri Sathya Sai Institue of Higher learning. Presenting
to you a transcript of that interview………….
Sairam, and welcome to the studios of Radio Sai. It is a great
moment for me because never in my life did I ever dream that
I would be interviewing a personality like you. For the benefit
of our listeners, I should say that though you are not the
original little master, as you yourself pointed out during
the closing ceremony of the Unity Cup match, yet you were
a little master in your own time, and continue to remain a
master though you now seem to be getting into the middle age.
GAV: Sairam, Yes, definitely.
Age waits for none and I think I am definitely past my youth
and the middle age is there.
GV: The passing of your
youth is true only as far as your physical body is concerned.
But you still remain so
youthful in spirit and so inspiring! Today I want to take
this opportunity to inspire all our listeners the world over
by talking to you about your various experiences. Let me begin
with a question that I don’t normally ask. Normally
I start by asking people, “When did you first come to
Swami?” and stuff like that. Today I want to ask a different
question. In your career you have been interviewed I don’t
know how many times and you have also interviewed others on
numerous occasions. Tell me, how does it feel to sit here
and chat over Radio Sai? This is an experience, I think, you
would have never dreamt of! How does it feel?
GAV: I think it is something
beyond description because of the fact that one comes to Prashanti
Nilayam and finds Peace that eludes you in the outside world.
To be perfectly honest when you go out of Prasanthi Nilayam
there is the hustle bustle and hurly burly of every day life
which does not give you the kind of Peace that you are looking
for. There is always some pressure; but coming down here brings
a great deal of Peace. I can feel the Peace even here in the
Studio. Normally, irrespective of the number of interviews
that one might have done, there is always a certain feeling
of nervousness when you do an interview. But that nervousness
is simply not there now, because here I am physically very
close to Swami. I just feel that He is around here.
GV: That is very nice. There
is some sort of magic in the air that grips you, squeezes
out all your anxiety and worries, and you feel pretty relaxed.
Since you feel so nice being here, I suggest that you should
come here more often!
GV: Why don’t you
arrange your tours so that you pass through Bangalore? We
are just a short distance away from Bangalore.
GAV: I would dearly love
to do that and I hope that Swami also organises it in such
a way, because He is perfectly capable of organising that.
GV: That is true. On now
to my standard opening question for celebrities: “How
did you happen to come to Swami?” In fact this question
is valid for every single individual because in His own way
Swami pulls the strings and brings us all to His fold at the
right time and in the right manner, though we are not conscious
of it. How did it happen for you, because in your case you
must have been very busy then, and in a different role too,
playing out there in the field? At present also you are busy
travelling and going along with the players, observing what
they are doing out there in the middle. In the midst of all
that bustle and stress, how did you happen to come to Swami?
GAV: Well, it all started
with my mother getting a vision of Swami.
GV: When was that?
GAV: That was in 1970 when
she was cooking and suddenly she got a vision of Swami.
GV: This vision - she saw
Him in person or something like that?
GAV: She saw Him, and it
was something like that. It happened in the kitchen where
she was cooking.
GV: It happened in Bombay,
GAV: Yes, it was in Mumbai.
She suddenly got excited about it. She stopped all cooking
and just went down the road where the newspaper stall is,
to ask for the poster. The newspaper chap had a lot of posters
but none of Swami. He showed all the posters to her and she
couldn’t find Swami’s poster.
GV: Was she able to place
GAV: No, She didn’t
know who Swami was at that time. She had just seen the vision.
The newspaper chap then pointed her to another shop a little
further down. She went there and looked, and once again there
was no poster of the person of whom she had had a vision.
So she came back to the original newspaper chap who used to
supply us with our daily newspapers.
GV: Which area of Mumbai?
GAV: In Dadar, Balachandar
Road. She said, “Please look again”. The newspaper
chap replied, “Listen lady, I told you just ten minutes
ago that this picture is not there. How can it be there now?”
My mother said, “Please look again.” He did and
lo and behold, right at the bottom of the pile was the poster
of Swami, in exactly the same posture as in the vision, with
His hand raised up in a blessing gesture.
GV: The famous Abhaya
GAV: It was there and the
newspaper chap gave the poster to her. She asked how much
and he replied, “I don’t know how this poster
has come here. I will not charge a penny because I have not
ordered it. This poster is here and it is yours.” Later
that poster was kept in my bedroom. I believe that ever since
that poster was put up in my bedroom, my cricketing fortunes
started to soar high. I was till then a Ranji Trophy player.
But fortunes just started to soar from here. Along with my
father and mother, I too started to get mentally and spiritually
involved with Swami from then on.
GV: Your story is absolutely
amazing. I don’t know if you are aware of Mr. Sinclair
of America. He had an almost similar experience. It has been
recorded by him personally. Swami came to him 2 or 3 times
in his prayer room, and at that time Sinclair didn’t
know who Swami was. He went to the biggest bookshop in New
York City which sells spiritual books and said, “I want
a book on somebody who looks like this” and described
Swami. The man at the counter smiled and came back shortly
with a book on Swami and some Vibhuthi.
It turned out that the salesperson was a devotee! Imagine
that, in New York. Sinclair then found out where Puttaparthi
was, came here and he saw Swami. And Swami was exactly like
the person whom he, that is Sinclair, had seen in his house
in Connecticut in America, at 2 or 3 o’clock in the
GV: So there are extraordinary
ways in which Bhagavan comes into the lives of people. I heard
a story from Tajmul Hussain of Trinidad, West Indies. He told
me of a man, an Afro-West Indian, shall I say, who did not
know anything about Swami, not one word. He was a rich man
but in deep financial difficulties. He became very depressed.
One day he was driving very fast in his Mercedes. He wanted
to crash and kill himself. As he was speeding he heard a voice
saying, “Come to Prasanthi.” He didn’t know
what was going on. He thought he was imagining, but then he
heard that command three times. He then slowed down, and told
himself, “There is something going on here; I am getting
a message. Let me find out.” He asked around and after
sometime found out what Prasanthi was, where it was, and what
was important about it. He then came here and when he did,
he realised that he had been saved by Swami. It is astonishing
that you were brought into the fold of Swami in somewhat the
The next question is what sort of impact do you think Swami
has made on your life? This question is very important for
our young people, and indeed for all of us too.
GAV: He has made a definite
impact in the sense that He has guided me right throughout
my cricketing career.
GV: In what way?
GAV: There have been decisions
that have been very hard to take, decisions regarding certain
aspects of the game like, for example, when the captaincy
of the Indian team, which is such a prestigious post, was
going back and forth. I was getting a little frustrated by
it, and it was also affecting my individual game. It was at
that stage there was a calming voice that said to me accept
what you get.
GV: It was an Inner Voice?
GAV: Yes, it was an Inner
Voice that said to me, “Accept what you get”.
This was when I was saying my morning prayers. I had a standard
prayer since I was a school boy. It was virtually the same
thing that I said everyday. I was brought up to study in a
Jesuit school where there was a prayer to God. It had been
a standard prayer which I was saying for years.
GV: You don’t miss
it even in your travels?
GAV: No, I don’t ever
GV: Fantastic. So as Swami
says you literally started the day with God.
GAV: Even to this day, the
first thing I do when I wake up is to touch the Feet of Swami
in His photograph which is by my bedside and doing that, I
take His blessings. When I wake up I want to see Swami’s
GV: Absolutely marvellous!
Incidentally if I may do a little bit of commercial, if you
go outside, we have a big board announcing RADIO SAI GLOBAL
HARMONY and in that we say: Start the day with God by tuning
to SGH. But even without our commercial you have been doing
it for a long time, and you have seen the personal benefit
of prayer. Wonderful, keeping God always on your radar screen.
You say Swami has guided you in all your decision-making
and major turning points and so on. Do you know of other players
who have felt the hand of God and guiding influence of God
GAV: Yes, there is my brother-in-law,
Mr. Gundappa Viswanath.
GV: He comes here often.
GAV: He has found Swami’s
guiding hand and he, like all of us in cricket, has gone through
rough patches in his cricketing career, when nothing seems
to be going right. That happens to everybody. It is then that
a sense of frustration builds up, and that is where Swami’s
guiding hand has come to me. When one is frustrated, there
is a tendency at such times to throw in the towel, quit and
say, “I don’t want to play any more although I
might still have a few more years left of good active playing
days.” Vishy [Gundappa Vishwanath] was also going through
rough patches as a batsman and there was lot of pressure to
drop him from the team. It was around this time that Swami
came to his help. After that I think he came down here and
when he went back he scored a hundred, and then a double hundred,
and just did not look back.
GV: May be you should tell
it to other players who want to a score century! Of course
it might be very difficult if you were in West Indies to fly
over, get Swami’s blessings and then get back. These
revelations are very nice and would, I hope, carry a message
to our young.
This brings me to a very important matter namely, cricket
and character building. I raise this point because when I
was in school there was a famous poem of which I remember
the last line: Play up, play up and play the game. And we
were told how the leaders of England were shaped on the playing
fields of Eton and Harrow. I also remember the great discipline,
decorum, dignity one saw on the sports field in those years.
I have only heard of Frank Chester, the great umpire; you
probably have seen him. In those days people accepted the
umpire’s verdict without question and there were shows
of sportsmanship, and so on. Cricket was a game that was associated
with character. Somehow we seemed to have moved very rapidly
away from it. Why on earth this has happened?
GAV: I think it is to a
great extent due to the commercialisation of the game that
has caused some players, but not all players, to lose sight
of the fact that this is a game, that this game has got great
traditions. As you very rightly said, cricket is a tremendous
character builder. As a batsman, you cannot score a century
unless there is somebody at the other end to bat with you.
That some body may take a few overs of very good bowling from
a bowler against whom you are a bit uncomfortable and would
not want to face. It might be that your partner may score
only 25 or 29 runs but with those 29 runs he has helped you
to overcome a tough period and go on to a century. Similarly
as a bowler you can’t get wickets unless there are fielders
taking catches for you or stopping runs and putting pressure
on the batsman by stopping runs and not giving away easy runs.
So the game also teaches lessons in character, apart from
GV: It builds team spirit.
GAV: Yes, it also teaches
you to live in a Society with all its inequalities. Society
is not equal and there are some more fortunate than others.
All pull together. So it is in the game. It reflects in many
ways the skill level of the player. There could be somebody
who is tremendously skilled but he cannot get a hundred, or
he cannot get five wickets unless there is a slightly lesser
skilled player who is helping him. All are needed. And sometimes
the better player has to look after the lesser skilled players
and that is also what Society teaches us. Those who are more
fortunate should be looking after the less fortunate. In a
sense, I would imagine cricket is a great reflection of Society.
GV: Character brings out
also element of courage. Won’t you agree?
GAV: Yes, it does. There
are times when things are not going well for you and for your
team and it is in situations like this that character shows
up via how you brave it, how you fight back, how you bide
your time till the tough period is over and then go on to
either score runs or take wickets. That is how it acts as
a character builder.
GV: Talking of character,
I must at this point tell our listeners something because
it is very important. You might not have heard this and it
might therefore also interest you. I vividly remember Prasanna,
with whom you have played, once telling me this on the veranda
many years ago. We were somehow talking about you. He said,
“Look! People do not understand that Gavaskar played
with just the county cap ‘our national cap’, which
people were then proud to wear, not the kind of helmets that
we have these days. And he scored over ten thousand test runs
against the great fast bowlers of the world. And on what sort
of pitches did he get his practice and whom did he face in
India? The pitches here were lousy and his practice was against
slow bowlers like me, and in spite of that he scored well
against all the big teams of the world. That is character.”
I will never forget that. There was power in that statement
that reflected your determination and resoluteness, which
really made a deep impression on me. That is why I am able
to recall that statement off the cuff.
GAV: Prasanna told that
to me also once. I said to him that the only reason I did
not wear the helmet was there was nothing to protect inside
GV: This reminds me of a
joke which I must share with you and the listeners. There
was a great erudite Judge named A.S.P. Iyer. He was on the
High Court Bench in Madras before Independence when most of
the Judges were British. Mr. Iyer was a very witty man. One
day he was having a conversation with a colleague, a British
Judge. The Englishman said, “Mr. Iyer I don’t
believe in God; it is all nonsense. It is all make belief.
I can’t see God. How can I believe in Him?” Mr.
Iyer was quick to respond and said, “Mr. Smith I can’t
see your brain. Am I to presume that you don’t have
Talking of character and great personality I would like to
mention at this point Vijay Merchant. I have seen him at close
quarters only once, that was in 1948 or 49 in Madras airport
after the West Indies Test. That was the first test match
I ever saw. Everton Weekes missed his century by ten runs.
Those days he was scoring centuries merrily. Five centuries
or so he had scored consecutively. He was run out and missed
his sixth, I think. After the Test match, both the Indian
and West Indian teams were taking off for Bombay. My father
used to work at the airport and he took me there to see these
players. And that was where I saw Merchant. He always impressed
me as a man of great character. I still remember, it was in
1954 or 55. The New Zealand team was visiting India for the
first time, and they were playing in Brabourne Stadium in
Bombay. Merchant used to broadcast the day’s summary
at 9:15 P.M. after the News broadcast by All India Radio.
We didn’t have tapes in those days. I used to hear him.
I was living in Santa Cruz area of Bombay at that time. That
day, batsman Martin Donnelley was in great form and the Indians
just couldn’t get him out. The people in the East Stand
then started blasting bombs and Donnelley’s concentration
was destroyed after which he got out. Merchant was very severe
on the spectators. He said, “I feel ashamed to call
myself an Indian. Is this the way to treat a guest? There
he was giving a fantastic display of batsmanship and our youngsters
should have taken lessons watching that.
I used to follow news about Vijaya Merchant now and then
and also about his service to the community. I was deeply
impressed about his personal discipline. In 1946 he went to
England under Nawab of Pataudi Senior. That was one of the
wettest summers and those days tours used to be long. It used
to start in Worcestershire and go on for three months. Merchant
scored seven centuries. It was tremendous. Have you met and
talked to him?
GAV: Oh yes.
GV: Would you like tell
us something about this great man? He is one of the legends
as far as India is concerned, in character and discipline.
I salute him.
GAV: Absolutely. According
to those who have seen Indian cricket from 1932, he is India’s
most technically accomplished batsman.
GV: I have seen him a few
times there is no doubt about it.
And the closest after that, really, has been Sachin Tendukar
in terms of technical perfection. Late Vijay Bhai [Merchant]
said that his second innings in life was better than his first
innings, which was cricket. His second innings in life was,
as you said, service to community. He was the Head of the
National Association for the Blind. He was a great philanthropist.
He did plenty of charity work. He cherished that innings,
that part of his life much more than his cricketing part.
As a cricketer he was an inspiration. I grew up hearing stories
about Vijay Merchant , Vijay Hazare, Polly Umrigar, Vijay
Manjrekar. These were inspirational figures to all of us particularly
Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare, because they used to score
not just hundreds but double hundreds and few triple hundreds,
much in the manner of Sir Don Bradman. Because they were Indians
they were far more inspirational than say Sir Don Bradman
who of course was the greatest middle order batsman that the
world has seen. Being a Bombayite I did interact with late
Vijay Bhai quite a few times,
thanks to my maternal uncle Madhava Mantri.
GV: Madhav Mantri was your
GAV: Yes, my mother’s
elder brother. He had played for India in about four Test
GV: If I am not mistaken,
he used to open with K. C. Ibrahim for Bombay ?
GAV: Yes, correct for Mumbai.
It is absolutely correct. So I had occasion to meet Vijay
Merchant and it was always fascinating to hear him talk about
the game of cricket, though at that stage he was more into
his second innings, which was more of charity work. He was
the one who actually picked me for the tour to West Indies
in 1971 although I had not played much of first class cricket
by that time. I think I had played just half a dozen first
class matches. He was the one who said that I am to be picked.
On the eve of the tour he met all of us, because he was the
Chairman of the Indian Selection Committee then. He met the
entire team before the departure. At that meeting he was telling
what he expected of the team in terms of performance etc.,
and how he would expect us to conduct ourselves off the field.
After that he turned round and said to everybody - I was the
baby of the team, I was youngest member of the team. He said,
“I won’t be surprised if Sunil comes back as the
best batsman of the tour.” To hear India’s greatest
batsman say something like that was bit of a jolt and fortunately,
more than putting pressure on me, just inspired me.
GV: This prompts me to ask
an important question. There are always people who inspire.
But it looks like the nature of the people who inspire has
changed. In those days, they were great not only in terms
of their professional ability, but they had great character
and discipline. Anybody whom you admired inevitably had those
things. These days, things seem to have changed. Modern heroes
are people who are rich, famous and talented but lack the
fundamental foundation namely, character. Is that true or
am I mistaken?
GAV: Not entirely true.
I think there are wrong conceptions, and mis-conceptions about
some people but generally you will find, at least in the sporting
arena, there is a lot of hard work that goes behind a success
story. Success doesn’t come easily. There are lots of
sacrifices which a sports person makes which are not generally
seen by the public. Particularly in cricket, because cricket
has got a lot of commercial advantages over other sports.
Because of the spin-offs in terms of endorsement opportunities
and fees etc., the standard of living of a particular person
improves. I think that is perhaps noticed more than the hard
work and sacrifices that went into achieving that success
level. What happened before fame was achieved goes unnoticed
because the person was not as well known at that time as he
was after success.
GV: True, sacrifice is there
obviously; otherwise you don’t rise to the top. But
there are certain manifestations of behaviour on the field
which make you ache for the old days when such things didn’t
GAV: Yes I think there is
more aggression in behaviour.
GV: Arguing with umpires
and trying to disturb the coolness of the batsman. If you
want to dislodge a batsman, bowl well.
GAV: That is exactly what
I keep saying. Recently I had the occasion to deliver the
Spirit of Cricket Lecture at Lords in London. I did emphasise
on this particular point.
GV: To whom did you deliver
GAV: I delivered it to the
M.C.C., a Cricket Club at Lords in London. There always has
been a bit of chat in the game of cricket, but invariably
it has been good-humoured and light-hearted. Suppose I am
the bowler and you are a batsman. And you played and missed;
as a bowler I would some times ask, “What did you eat
for breakfast today?” - you know, something like that.
It was always light hearted. Lately, what has happened unfortunately
is that winning at cost has become the be all and end all;
as a result this particular sense of humour is gone. Instead
there is now personal abuse. That is what I spoke about in
my lecture. By all means play the game hard. It has always
been a hard game, it has been a game where it is played with
a hard ball and it can hurt when it hits you in the ribs and
hits you in the gloves but there are limits to liberties in
In earlier days it has always been played fair. I give the
example of the West Indian fast bowlers who have been fearsome
but they have never said a word to the opponent; just went
on with their business. They may give you a glare, which is
perfectly all right because they want to put the fear into
you but they never abused you. These are people who have taken
200, 300 wickets in test cricket. So I don’t see the
reason why others should resort to personal abuse. A little
bit of chat is fine; I have no problems with good-humoured
chat, but not personal abuse.
I am very glad your about remarks on the way the game must
be played. It reminds me of the observation you made at the
conclusion of the Unity Cup match to which we shall come presently.
You said that in any game there are winners and losers but
at the end of the day what matters is how you played the game.
I have never forgotten that remark of yours.
Let me now turn to some great personalities; inevitably I
have to come to Don Bradman who for all of us will remain
Don in spite of your centuries! You are, shall I say No.2
in the list? Don is Don. I am sure it is so for you because
I have seen lot of his books in your house. Did you ever meet
GAV: Oh yes.
GV: Why don’t you
us tell something about that?
GAV: I met him first in
1971 when I was part of the Rest of the World team. The South
African tour to Australia
was cancelled because of South Africa’s apartheid policy
then. So it was Don Bradman, as the Chairman of the Australian
Cricket Board who actually organised for the Rest of the World
team to come and play in Australia.
GV: I see.
GAV: He picked me in that
Rest of the World squad. I had the occasion to meet him several
times on that tour because he was travelling for every match.
There was one memorable instance. In those days there were
no aero bridges; you just got off from the plane onto the
tarmac and did not go directly into the arrival lounge. Australia
is a big country and in those days there were mostly hopping
flights. We were on our way to Melbourne and our plane stopped
at Adelaide [Don’s hometown] and he came to see us.
He was talking to Sir Gary Sobers, of whom he was extremely
fond. Gary was the Captain of our team; Don greeted him and
said, “Where is that little fellow from Bombay? I want
to see him.” He then came round and introduced himself
and I was absolutely flabbergasted to meet him. That was the
first time I met him. He was asking me how things were and
all that. Suddenly Sobers saw us and he came. Sir Don Bradman
was not very tall, 5’6” or 5’7” at
the most. Gary saw the two of us a little away from the rest
of the group and talking and he said, “You little fellows,
you must always get together, is it?” Sir Don Bradman
quietly turned to me and said, “These big fellows might
have the power but we little fellows have foot work.”
GV: Fantastic, amazing.
I think that is a great story. Now what was it about Bradman
that impressed you most as an individual, apart from his legendary
GAV: I think straight away
when you met him you realise the passion he had for the game,
for all the aspects of the game. He was passionate about the
game being more important than the individual. He was very
very concerned even at that stage that there were certain
aspects of Australian cricket, which were degenerating a little
bit. But his passion for the development of the game and his
interest in players covered all countries.
GV: Do you know anything
about his attitude to discipline?
GAV: No, unfortunately not.
GV: There are a few things
that impressed me to the extent that I can recall from his
book which he wrote when he retired. I don’t remember
the title but a few things there impressed me. Don led the
Aussies for the last time when they went to England in 1948.
The trip was made by ship and not by air; that was the way
it was in those days. Apparently Don made sure that Lindwall
and Miller, the two Australian opening bowlers shared the
same cabin room in the ship; he wanted them to know each other
very well. It takes about three weeks to go from Australia
to England by boat. That was one thing that struck me. He
never left anything to chance. Some critics said that he didn’t
even allow the players a free hand in the match against T.N.Pearce’s
Eleven, even though it was a festival match. He wanted to
win every match. That is how committed he was to discipline,
thorough planning, and professionalism.
The other thing that impressed me was he forbade Australians
from playing golf, an order, which they hated. Apparently
he said golf encourages cross-bat shots. I wouldn’t
know about that but as a cricketer you would probably appreciate
that much more.
Above all, I liked the thoroughness of planning. One other
thing I remember is, during the sea voyage, he made his team-mates
sign their names on lots of slips. He told them, “When
we travel across England, there would be lots of requests
for autographs and in the ship you have a lot of time. Just
spend time by doing this.”
One more thing. The England tour was not only long but also
very strenuous. There were a lot of speeches to make during
the tour but no time to prepare for them. As a captain of
the visiting team he was supposed to make speeches. He knew
all the counties, and he made notes for all of them and kept
them ready, so that when the occasion arose, he did not have
to stand on his feet and scratch his head wondering, “What
do I say?” I was just amazed.
GAV: Yes, I understand he
was a terrific after-dinner speaker. In those days there used
to be a function, a dinner, in every county you played. It
is not the case now. Nowadays you possibly have utmost two
official functions, one by the host association and one by
another agency. If you are touring England, one will be by
England and Wales Cricket Board and one by M. C. C. If you
are travelling in Australia, one will be by the Australian
Cricket Board and there may be one reception by the Indian
High Commissioner; but the number of functions has gone down.
In any case, it is the visiting manager who speaks, not the
Captain. Don was apparently a wonderful speaker.
GV: The other thing that
I remember was how careful he was with his batting. If he
was ‘not out’ at lunch, he would come 15 minutes
before and sit in the ground to get his eyes used to the light.
Most people get out after lunch for the simple reason that
when they come out from dark lunch room to bright sun light,
their eyes are not able to adjust. I was amazed and said to
myself: my God! This man is so thorough.
GAV: You are right about
the eyes getting adjusted to the light factor. It is an important
matter because dressing rooms are dark, particularly in England
where the light is not always as bright as over here in India.
So it did make a difference in getting used to the light.
GV: What I admired was his
commitment, his passion and deep involvement. Those are very
necessary. In the evening after the game was over while everybody
else was apparently down in the bar or in a club, he would
be sitting in his room listening to a Gramophone record, to
some classical music.
GAV: Yes, That I have heard
GV: I now want to come to
the great event you organised, which is almost one off. It
belongs to the last century in a manner of speaking, an event
in which I played a peripheral role. I am referring to the
great UNITY CUP MATCH. Tell us all you know about it.
GAV: I would say it was
a real privilege to organise the match.
GV: How did it all start?
GAV: Swami in one of His
interactions said that He wanted to spread the message of
brotherhood and unity amongst everybody in the world through
sport. Because cricket is such a big game in our country and
in our part of the world, He wanted to have a cricket match.
Once Swami gave the go ahead for the match, the preparations
started in earnest, right from making sure that the ground
was in tip- top condition.
GV: We had no ground before
GAV: Yes, there was no ground.
Everything had to be done from scratch virtually. Swami was
more keen about the pitch; He was keen about a good pitch
because He did not want any injuries. If the quality of the
pitch is not good, the quality of the game also will not be
good. Prasanna was put in charge of making sure the pitch
and the outfield were good. I was given the responsibility
of making sure that the players were invited. Swami was keen
to have players from all over the world, particularly Pakistan.
When I approached the Pakistani players, I wanted to make
sure that there was no last minute confusion because of the
fact they believe in Islam. I explained to them that you are
coming to a place that does not make distinctions between
religions and where all religions are given equal respect.
They were happy to come. We had four Pakistani players, two
current players and two former players.
GV: Yes, I remember about
the ex-players, Zahir Abbas and Hanif Mohammad, whom you introduced
as the original little master. What surprised me was Hanif
got up during the closing ceremony and said a few words, which
was not in the scheduled program. He was not a scheduled speaker,
according to what we knew.
GAV: That is right. Those
were my responsibilities, to ensure we had a proper world
eleven. Also the fact Arjuna Ranathunga also is a devotee
of Swami. He comes often. He was a big help. He was helpful
in getting some of the Srilankan players.
GV: And Kallicharan.
GAV: Yes, Kallicharan was
there. From the Indian side, Sachin Tendulkar was the captain
of the Indian team then and he was very keen to play this
game. Very eager to come down and play.
GV: We have a photo Swami
talking intimately to Sachin, with His hand on his back.
GAV: I will you tell you
in a short while about what Sachin wanted to know from Swami.
Sachin was very keen to play this game. That is how the match
GV: You have any memorable
experiences associated with that match which you would like
to share with us?
GAV: Yes, the one concerning
Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin at that stage was under pressure
as far as his captaincy was concerned. There was a lot of
talk that it was affecting his batting and so he actually
wanted to ask Swami what he should do. Whether he should carry
on with captaincy or not?
GV: Just as you had similar
GAV: Yes, he kept telling
me, “Can I meet Swami for two minutes?” I said,
“I will certainly try; I will speak to Swami if I get
a chance.” He went out into the field. After every two
deliveries he was looking back, because Swami was sitting
there. He was checking to see if there was any signal from
me. When I managed to get an opportunity to talk to Swami,
I said, “Swami, Sachin wants to come and speak with
you for some time.” Swami said ‘Wait ,Wait’.
Swami also realised that He cannot all of a sudden ask Indian
captain from the field to come out. So at the drinks interval,
Swami said now you can ask him. Then it was without any interruption
of play. So Sachin came leaving a substitute and sat next
to Swami. I think he had a chat with Swami during which Swami
said, I believe, that: “Don’t worry, whatever
you do I am with you.” Every body over there who were
present at the match remembers Swami patting him on his back
and encouraging him. We all know the fantastic season that
Sachin had after that.
GV: My most memorable memory
- I have a lot of memories but I won’t tax you with
them - but listeners ought to know about this one. It is a
very pleasant memory of the conversation I had with Zahir
Abbas during lunchtime. I was the Vice Chancellor at that
time. I had to make sure that we played the host properly.
Zahir was tremendously impressed with the way our boys were
taking care of the guests. He asked me a lot questions about
our Institute and the way we train our boys. I was very proud.
It was my proudest moment. You feel proud when your boys get
praised. They did a fantastic job. In fact I felt very miserable
that day because I couldn’t see the game. I have not
seen a cricket match for donkeys years and here was a great
game taking place and I was running around all the time. I
could not see it and I felt miserable. Then I found that I
was not alone. Thousand boys were feeling miserable because
they could not see the game! But they didn’t show it
whereas I showed it. They were all doing their duty. It was
wonderful and absolutely marvellous.
GAV: It was a very well
organised. The Cricket Board officials were also here. In
fact one of the suggestions made at that stage was, just like
all over the world, they have a tour opener, like in Australia
when you go they play near Western Australia - it is a one
day game that is played in Western Australia. Similarly whenever
touring teams come to India they should come and play the
tour opener here at Puttaparthi. If Swami OKs that would happen.
GV: Who knows! But we do
look forward to the day when cricket would have more of character
and less of commercialism. I do hope the speech you made at
Lords would make its impact and that we would return, at least
partially, to good old days. Before we sign off I would like
to recall what you mentioned at the time when Swami gave away
the cup to Sachin Tendulkar. You said, if I remember correctly,
that Sachin had exceeded his performance on the ground by
a great weight lifting performance because the cup was so
heavy! I was also impressed with Clive Lloyd’s speech.
He said talent is a gift of God and we must offer it back
to God. I was just stunned. I have quoted that any number
of times to my students. This is sentence straight from Bhagavad
Gita. I am sure this man had never heard of the Gita.
But he was able to say what he did because God is in his heart,
just as He is in the heart of everyone.
Many years ago I was speaking in Trayee Brindavan, when I
recalled this particular incident and said, “Talent
is a gift of God”. Swami stopped me, looked at me straight
me and said, “Talent is not gift of God”. I wondered,
“Oh my God, where did I go wrong!” Just then Swami
said, “Talent IS God”! That takes matters to a
still higher level. Talent is a manifestation of God. Then
I remembered what Krishna says in the tenth chapter. He says
among the senses I am the mind, so mind is God. Power of mind
is God because with the mind you can do fantastic things.
We just don’t spend two minutes thinking about all the
things that the human beings have done. That is all the power
of mind. If only we think about it that way, life would turn
around to better days.
So my request to you, Sir, is: please do advise our younger
people as much as you can about the value of sports as a builder
of character. I would let you have the last word by telling
to our young listeners, particularly, about reaching God through
sports. But before that I must tell you something. There was
a pole vault Olympic champion way back in 1948 in the London
Olympics. I don’t remember his full name; his first
name was BOB. I saw him in Mysore, and he had become a preacher
by then. He was giving pole vault demonstration. He said,
“I have been described as the only preacher who is trying
to go to heaven on the strength of his own by jumping!”
So why don’t you tell us our young listeners something
about what you would like them to do, how to follow Swami
and through the medium of sports and develop their personality
and character. Over to you Sir!
GAV: I think sport is something
where you want to be a winner all the time but if it does
not teach you how to accept defeat then you are the biggest
loser. I think you learn to win with humility, learn to win
with grace and accept defeat with humility with a desire to
improve, make yourself a winner the next time that you are
playing. But most importantly, if you play the sport as it
is meant to be played, then whether you win or loose it really
will not matter to you so long as you know in your heart of
hearts that you have given off your best. It is not the question
of an individual’s ego but it is a question of trying
to do the best with the talent that one has inherited. Sport
teaches you, quite frankly, what is right and what is wrong.
In cricket, for example, there is that word “it is not
cricket” which is so important. It has been used in
everyday life as well. That phrase actually tells you what
the game of cricket used to be in the old days. It is still
possible to come back to that. We are not too far way. We
have gone a bit away from that but it is possible to get to
that. Remember at the end of it all, that whatever one achieves
on the field of sport, whether in indoor sport or outdoor
sport, your self confidence, your ability to think yourself
out of a difficult situation that arise in sport and life
is actually an ability given by God. So do not ever forget
GV: And do not ever give
GAV: Yes, do not ever give
GV: Thank you. I won’t
say goodbye. I look forward to having you here again and again
because it is so nice to talk to you. You must be having lots
of stories and incidents to recall. But one point; next time
you come, you bring Sachin Tendulkar along with you!
GAV: Yes. Unfortunately,
the schedule of the Indian team is so tight that there is
hardly any time for them. It will certainly be my endeavour
to bring Sachin and as many as the Indian team to come down
here. I know Rahul Dravid also went to seek Swami’s
GV: Yes, I saw him in Bangalore
just before he got married.
GAV: There are any numbers
of Indian cricketers who are Sai devotees. Swami is there
to guide them to look after them.
GV: Thank you, it had been
a pleasure having you here with us. Please come again. Jai
GAV: Thank you, Sairam