Sunil Gavaskar recalls the qualities of the Indian team that won the World Cup at the Wankhede Stadium on April 2 and also talks about Gary Kirsten and Sachin Tendulkar.
You were chiefly instrumental in the selection of Gary Kirsten as the coach of the Indian team three years ago. Why did you target him?
Fundamentally it was the way he played his game; method and manner to be precise. He was obviously not naturally talented, but he made that up by adhering to a method and working hard on his batting. Also because he was able to relate to naturally talented players like Sachin Tenndulkar, V.V.S. Laxman and Virender Sehwag and also with someone like Rahul Dravid, who is a hard working player. Kirsten was able to bring this virtue into the Indian team. Having scored runs for South Africa in both forms of the game he had the respect of the team.
One thing that actually endeared him to me more than anything else was that not once during his coaching tenure did he wear the India cap. He always wore the sponsor's cap. By doing so he respected the India cap. Even none of the support staff wore the India cap.
Your views on India's World Cup 2011 win.
It was fabulous. More so because, unlike in 1983 when there was no expectation and pressure to win, the Indian team of 2011 was under massive pressure. The Indian team was the favourite even before the first ball was bowled. But the way it handled the pressure and the manner of the wins from the knockout stage clearly indicated that India was the best team in the World Cup by a mile. The way it beat Australia and Pakistan was incredible and in the final it ran away with the game.
M.S. Dhoni also made very good use of the resources. He deployed Yuvraj Singh as a fifth bowler; also Yusuf Pathan and Suresh Raina at different stages. The fielding lifted itself from the knockout stages with Raina and Virat Kohli patrolling the infield like champions. More importantly Dhoni's field placings were fabulous; he covered the straight bat areas nicely and made the rival batsmen vulnerable by forcing them to open the face of the bat. Batting was never an issue up to No. 7. It could chase down any target.
The road ahead for Indian cricket and the team.
The team has to maintain the intensity which is what differentiates the champion from the others. Just like Roger Federer or a Rafael Nadal, the Indian team has to maintain the intensity at big events. They have to raise the level of the game when needed. Dhoni did not have a great start, but he raised the level when needed. He set the example and the others will learn how to do that. Look at Yuvraj. We have seen how Raina and Kohli, in particular, have picked up their game in the last two years. If Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara can lift their game, India need not worry too much.
M.S. Dhoni's captaincy.
He has shaped well. It might not be obvious to everybody, but he's picked up so many things from the others. He's learnt to build an innings without losing his natural aggression. He's picked up the good parts of captaincy from his predecessors and grown as a cricketer and person.
Sachin Tendulkar; 22 years on he still has the enthusiasm to play for team India.
He has the hunger for the game like a kid. He is someone who has the love for the game. In his case it's like what Sir Don Bradman felt: “Treat every ball as if you're on a duck'' Sachin treats every match as his first; hence the energy, enthusiasm and confidence.
Before he scored his 34th century against Bangladesh at Dhaka, I had imagined 45 Test centuries, after the 34th I revised it to 50. At some point in time I was also talking to him about 90 international centuries for India. Well, he's looking at a hundred 100s.