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Spirit of the game

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S. THYAGARAJAN

Apart from writing about Gavasakar, the author has captured the mood of the times and the ethos of Bombay’s cricketing culture.

SMG: A biography of Sunil Manohar Gavaskar; Devendra Prabhudesai, Rupa & Co., Rs. 395

Profiling a living legend can be nerve-wracking largely because the subject has been so visible for years and invariably not a single detail is left uncovered. And, if the subject happens to be a celebrity like Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, then the author’s hardship in exploring and excavating something profoundly new to keep the reader engrossed needs no elaboration. Only a few can successfully to break such shackles and project the subject in a new dimension. Devendra Prabhudesai is probably one of them.

Blessed as Prabhudesai is to enjoying a ringside of view of cricket in Mumbai, and given the cornucopia of facts and figures associated with the subject, the author has threaded a vibrant tapestry to present a panoramic view of the life and times, of an extraordinary individual. Gavaskar’s iconic status in cricket is an enduring saga that shows how fame and fortune follows a sportsman as a reward for dedication, determination and discipline.

Mindful of handling a high profile personality and a multi-faceted one at that, the author treads cautiously in narrating Gavaskar’s rise to stardom from the days of gully cricket to the pinnacle of glory in all climes and countries. The step-by-step progress and the endeavours in conquering odds at every turn — be it in school or college before entering the sacred arena of Test cricket in an alien land — are captured in meticulous detail.

Authentic views

The author’s effort to research and present an authentic and endorsed viewpoint is quite evident in almost every chapter. Quotes from various sources, with quite a substantial number from the renowned cricket-writer K.N. Prabhu, Gavaskar’s own autobiography and other magazines lend a veneer of credibility and authenticity to the author’s observations.

Everyone agrees that Gavaskar cannot, and should not be, evaluated by figures. Statistics no doubt reflect the class and character of the man who mesmerised millions of cricket aficionados. But Prabhudesai takes pains to paint qualities that project Gavaskar’s humanism, humour, conviction to put across a viewpoint regardless of the opposition, and the rare spirit of fortitude to confront the complexities that abound in Indian sport and its administration. The sequences that led to Gavaskar tumbling in and out of captaincy, the apprehensions and consequences of his ‘negotiations’ with Kerry Packer, and the reactions and recriminations of the walk-out over an umpiring solecism have all been documented with a touch of feeling and nostalgia.

More than cataloguing Gavasakar’s career and charisma, Prabhudesai has captured the mood of the times, the ethos of Bombay’s cricketing culture, the complexities that confounded players, enthusiasts and administrators alike in an era that led to unimaginable contortions. But the spirit of the game reigned supreme and how that helped surmount the challenges is well documented.

Gavaskar’s tribute

“There are some things you know about me, which I did not know myself. Just goes to show how much effort you put in this compilation,” is Gavaskar’s tribute to the author. One is inclined to agree given the enormity of details that Prabhudesai has managed to assimilate and present.

Admittedly, Gavaskar continues to be an inexhaustible source of material for writers, whose appetite to embellish the career graph of the country’s outstanding cricketer cannot be easily extinguished.


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