Cause Celebre — a replay of 1983
This blog may kindly be read as a letter to M S Dhoni’s boys. They’ve done us proud. Never before in recent memory did India rise as one, barring of course our maiden world cup victory in 1983 in England and Sunny Gavaskar equaling Sir Don Bradman’s record of 29 centuries in Delhi the same year and overhauling it shortly thereafter against the West Indies in Chennai.
It is strange that when we recall 1983, we often forget to mention Gavaskar, of whom noted commentator Harsha Bhogle once said: “His numbers were stellar, but more important, to a country starved of self-respect, he was a godsend….”
I couldn’t agree more. Gavaskar’s sporting glories were a matter of national pride. He was the hero of we hadn’t had for a long, long time. I’d often compare him those days with Nehru as cricket’s Jawahar. He was overwhelmed when I told him that at a recent meeting.
I was in the stands at Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla when Gavaskar joined the pantheon of all time greats. Cricket aficionados rate that hundred of his among the very best, if not the best ever by any batsman. His footwork was picture perfect. Singularly Gavaskarisque was the flair with which he hooked the short balls of that ferocious duo— Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding. The century was memorable also because a Marshall bouncer had had Sunny’s bat flying in the previous Test at Kanpur, the city where his in-laws lived.
Once in the dressing room after the memorable innings, Sunny was gracious enough to grant to yours truly the first interview upon equaling Bradman’s record. I was then with the Malayala Manorama’s The Week magazine that destroyed over 50,000 printed copies to stop press and put Gavaskar on the cover.
So much so that the legendary cricketer also helped me speak to his wife Marshneil, who named Madan Lal as her favourite cricketer for being the fighter that he was on the field.
Cut to circa 2011. We had Sachin in place of Sunny (though both didn’t do well in the finals) on the verge of his 100 th Test-ODI ton and Yuvraj matching Kapil Dev’s all-rounder profile. There were others whom one could compare with Krish Srikant, Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil, Roger Binny, Syed Kirmani and Madan Lal; the difference being that the 1983 win was the bowlers’ achievement in a low-scoring match.
But the big picture was no different. India’s proud and on an unprecedented high after wresting the Cup again! The victory came when the national mood was low amid a welter of superlative scams. We needed a cause celebre. And Dhoni’s team gave us one.
But should Gautam Gambhir not have been named Man of the Match for his gritty 97 that encouraged Dhoni to promote himself in the batting order for a scintillating knock?
On an afterthought, it doesn’t really matter. The Cup is for the whole of India. Dhoni’s boys won it. We have it.