Cricketer And A Gentleman

Cricketer And A Gentleman
S.B. VIJAYA MARY

It’s hard to fathom what was on Puttaparthi Sathya Sai Baba’s mind when V.V.S. Laxman beseeched him to name his daughter. ‘Achintya’ was Sathya Sai Baba’s prompt reply, and in that one word lies Laxman’s meaning of life: no worries. That is quintessentially Laxman – as nice as they come; a gentleman who never lost out on life, its values and traditions.

With both parents accomplished doctors, it was but logical for young Laxman to have followed in their footsteps. “That was the toughest conflict of my life, to choose between cricket and a course in medicine. My maternal uncle, Baba Krishna Mohan, who’s also my mentor, realised my potential as a cricketer and convinced my parents. And, my father’s belief that one should excel in the profession one chooses made it easier for me to take a decision,” says Laxman

Decisions, decisions
There were naysayers aplenty. “My father’s friends couldn’t understand my decision. They always used to ask my father as to how he could allow me to choose cricket over studies. Most of my friends, who were as talented as me, if not better, were pushed into medical schools, whereas my parents gave me that freedom to choose. Their confidence is my motivation to excel, says Laxman, of 105 test matches vintage.His wife Shailaja is his support system now. She had to make a lot of changes after marrying me. I always felt that the cricketing world is an artificial one. . If you get used to that kind of lifestyle, your life changes. That said, being the wife of a cricketer is never easy. She lives out of suitcases, and with the kids now, it’s tougher,” he says.

So, does he have his craziest fan or his worst critic at home? “She never followed cricket and doesn’t follow even now, which is okay with me because I don’t go home to talk cricket,” he says. “Or, maybe she follows my performance but gives me an impression that she’s not really interested so that I’m comfortable, which is great. I’m fortunate to have her in my life.”

The apple of his eye
And the apple of his eye? Laxman’s son Sarvajit will turn three in two months and Achintya is all of 10 months.

His hopes for his children? “I think all parents should realise that every child can’t be playing for the country. But having said that, I would definitely want my son and daughter to play sports. I believe that sport plays an equally important role as education. One of my long-term plans is to start an academy,” says Laxman.

Talking about the game, he says: “I enjoy batting but was never a natural athlete. But, trainer Ramesh raised my fitness levels. I just follow the fitness schedule he gives me in full faith,” he smiles.

Laxman’s equanimity endears him to all. Very, Very Special is what they call him as against Vangipurappu Venkat Sai.

“I guess the Australians started it after the wonderful outing I had at their expense in the 2001 series. I’m not sure, but I think it was Steve Waugh who started it and it stuck to me,” he laughs

The Hindu Reference

Daren And Sherwin Come Home

Daren And Sherwin Come Home
The Gangas have wanted to visit the land of their ancestors for years, and now they finally have, as a family.
Nagraj Gollapudi
October 19, 2009

“Amitabh Bachchan, Jeetendra, Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor…” Daren Ganga reels off the names, in that lovely Trinidad accent, of actors from Indian movies he and his family used to watch every Sunday afternoon when he was young. His father, Bahadur “Ramesh” Ganga, mother Seerajie “Jenno” Ganga, and younger brother Sherwin pitch in with their favourites.

For now, the Gangas’ own story sounds a bit like a Bollywood script: an East Indian family returning to the land of their ancestors to take in some real Indian life as opposed to the reel version they were brought up on. Daren and Sherwin are part of the Trinidad & Tobago side participating in the Champions League Twenty20, while their parents are visiting India for the first time, primarily to support their boys but also to obtain a better understanding of where they came from.

Ramesh, retired now, was a teacher, and his gentility is apparent in his sons, who are well groomed, disciplined and clear-headed.

Daren readily agreed to assemble his family, at a half-hour’s notice, and he leads his folks into the hotel foyer at the appointed time. Sherwin is expected shortly as he has just returned from training. The Gangas are all smartly, and simply, dressed. The parents sit side by side on a sofa, Daren to their left, fiddling with his BlackBerry as he gives studious answers without ever seeming disinterested. He is clean-shaven, wearing an ironed purple t-shirt, hair Brylcreemed. Not for him and Sherwin the usual player attire of shorts and singlets.

An articulate speaker, Daren, who is T&T’s captain, is studying law externally, since playing cricket doesn’t allow him the time to be resident at a university (that includes Cambridge, which at one point was reportedly interested in having him).

The talk is still on Bollywood. “We grew up in a rural community and on a Sunday there would always be an Indian movie at mid-day and that was a natural thing to do, to look forward to watch the movies,” he says. His early concepts of India naturally involved images from those movies. “A favourite was policemen with moustaches. And when they shoot in that dramatic style, it would be fun. At one point we did think it was real,” Daren says as Jenno laughs.

The real India has proved rather different. On a shopping trip a few days ago, as the family walked with their hands full of purchases, a group of “men dressed in saris”, pounced from nowhere. “They were like… all hands all over and loud in your face and demanding,” Sherwin exclaims. Daren points out that even if the crime rate in Trinidad is among the worst in the world, the locals are never intimidating.

They’re quick to allow that it’s all part of experiencing the culture of the country – one that their ancestors left in the late 1880s when they went to the Caribbean as indentured labourers. “Knowing that they came from here, we feel a little nostalgic and we feel nice, and we would like to see how India is, compared to Trinidad,” Ramesh says.

The most important common ground, of course, is the love for cricket, which is as much enjoyed and talked about in India as it is in Trinidad. “We were born into cricket,” Sherwin says. Every man in the family has played cricket at some level. Ramesh was part of the Apollo XI in the village of Barrackpore, a team Jenno and her friend would go to watch since her brother was part of the team. His three sons did better: Sheldon, the oldest, played club cricket, while Daren and Sherwin have played first-class and international cricket.

“When I was seven or eight the entire family, including our uncles and their families, would drive from Barrackpore to Queens Park Oval to watch international cricket,” Daren recalls. “We would start at three in the morning and the drive was an hour-and-a half.” Jenno played her part, waking up before everyone else to make dal poorie and roti and “wrap everything up neatly so that each one could have his own”. Ramesh would make sure the beers were nicely chilled in an ice box. Then they would line up to get tickets for the bleachers.

Once they were at the ground, allegiance would be split depending on who West Indies were playing. Sherwin likes Australia, Daren prefers the “natural talent of the subcontinent, compared to the mechanical skills” of the other sides. For the parents it has always been West Indies, even against India.

There are nine East Indians in the T&T squad touring India, including Daren and Sherwin, but it is the Gangas who seem most excited to be returning to what Sherwin refers to as the “motherland”. For Daren, who is on his second visit to India (he toured with the 2002-03 West Indies side), coming to India has always been an act of finding himself. “We studied history in school and understood exactly how East Indians came to the Caribbean, how they settled and developed their own culture and history. Culturally we are still strong with regards to what our great grandfathers brought with them.”

On his first visit to India he could see the various things the cultures had in common. “It was rewarding and fulfilling to see the beginning of where my culture originated from. It was good to make that link between who I was as a person, who I am as a person, and linking it back to India, where my ancestors started. So there was a sense of fulfillment, sense of belonging, coming back,” Daren says.

As if to prove their essential Indianness, as their sons began to grow up, the senior Gangas picked the professions each of the three would pursue. “We wanted an engineer, a lawyer a doctor,” Ramesh says. Those wishes have nearly all been fulfilled: Sheldon is a mechanical engineer, Daren is soon to be a lawyer, and Sherwin has a management degree. “Our daughter-in-law [Sheldon's wife] is a doctor, so we have no complaints,” Jenno adds with a laugh.

Daren believes a good upbringing and parental support have helped the brothers think beyond cricket. He recently started the Daren Ganga Foundation to help underprivileged kids and youth back home in Trindad.

“Culturally, if you look at the East Indians, you would quickly associate [with them] humility and wanting to give back and hospitality – things that are part of us, the way I was brought up,” he explains. “My foundation is an attempt to ensure that kids and young people don’t have to endure the same challenges that I went through, and go on to achieve their full potential.”

His parents have paid a visit to the Sathya Sai Baba (a mystic whose followers include the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Rohan Kanhai), and plan to go up north to visit the Taj Mahal, and also the sacred river they share their family name with. “The Hindus hold the Ganges in high regard and we would like to experience that,” Ramesh says.

For now they are happy to be in the thick of one of India’s most popular festivals, one that is celebrated with as much vigour and excitement in T&T. “Happy Diwali”, Jenno and Ramesh wish with large smiles as they leave to visit an Indian family. It has been a good homecoming for the Gangas.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Cric Info Reference

Sunil Gavaskar Turns 60

Sunil Gavaskar Turns 60
By: Clayton Murzello
Date: 2009-07-09
Place: Mumbai

Sunil Gavaskar, who celebrates a landmark birthday tomorrow, takes some quick singles off deliveries from Mid Day

These are busy times for Sunil Gavaskar. Not long after returning from his media duties in England, he had to deliver the inaugural Dilip Sardesai Memorial Cricket Lecture at the Cricket Club of India last week. After that, another trip abroad. A couple of days in Mumbai and it’s travel time again. This time, to spend his 60th birthday in Puttaparthi on July 10 where Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is based. Some devotee this and a long-standing one! When you step into the cabin of his Central Mumbai office, there is not a hint of a busy schedule a cool operator punching in words selectively on his sleek laptop.

He never fails to offer you a refreshment. This time, before we get talking, he wants to ensure his air conditioner doesn’t affect the recording of the interview.

He’s emphatic when you ask him questions relating to matters close to his heart. His laugh has an extra decibel level to it. It tells you that the batting great is in good spirits. However, Gavaskar doesn’t give the impression that he is too excited about completing 60. At least he doesn’t show it. And you can believe him when he says he hasn’t had the time to reflect on his landmark birthday that he celebrates tomorrow.

Do you feel like a kid? His reply is straight, no-nonsensical. “No, I stopped feeling like a kid when I realised I’ve got to watch my sugar.”

But completing 60 must mean something? Again, there is no playing to the gallery:

“You don’t think of yourself as five, 10, 20, 30. You just look forward to the day and thank the almighty for giving you the extra day and for being able to do what you enjoy doing and have family and friends around you. You have to give thanks for that.”

The innings is off to a steady start as it were. It’s time to get to the middle overs. He is informed about the type of interview we want from him and it will be a snappy affair. Gavaskar takes guard and plays fluently.

One thing which means more to you than anything?
My family means the most to me.

One thing that puts you off about people?
Presumptuousness. Presuming things about others not so much about themselves but others without actually finding out the reality, the facts.

One thing you don’t like about yourself?
That I am too trusting. I trust too easily.

One thing which you would like to see changed immediately in cricket?
I would like to see leg byes abolished from the game. Also, I would like to see overthrows after a direct hit not given. The restriction of bouncers should be stopped too.

One aspect in Indian cricket you want changed?
Indian cricket is on a high. I don’t think there is much I would like changed. It’s going in the right direction. There will always be a hiccup here and there which is part of sport. We’ve got a good set of administrators, a country full of tremendously supportive and enthusiastic fans. Maybe they could just be a little patient with the team when it loses and not make up stories. Players are human. They are going to fail occasionally. Not everybody takes wickets, scores runs and holds catches every time. We’ve got to understand that players are under tremendous pressure.

One thing which you don’t like about sports officialdom?
The resistance to change. You have to change not drastically but change with the times and I think there is a general resistance to change. It’s not just with Indian sports administrators. It’s with administrators all over the world.

One big turning point?
Mr Worthington who coached the Indian schools team probables in 1966 changed my game completely from a front-on position to side-on in 30 days. You can say that’s the biggest turning point.

One feat you were very thrilled to achieve?
The 1983 World Cup win. That’s the biggest win as far as Indian cricket is concerned. It was huge. Nobody gave us a chance. The team quietly believed they could do it after beating world champions West Indies in our first match. And when we finally did it, it was the biggest moment for all of us.

One Test century that stands out? Still Manchester 1974?
Still Manchester 1974. I hadn’t scored a hundred for three years. I was starting to doubt if I had it in me skill-wise and temperament-wise to score a hundred. To be able to score that century in cold conditions and on a greenish pitch just gave me back the belief.

One piece of equipment which you have preserved and treat as sacrosanct?
I have kept most of the caps I got. I have got the bats with which I scored my first century and double century.

One colleague/friend you miss most?
Eknath Solkar for sure. We grew up together as cricketers. We used to ride in buses from the Brabourne Stadium. Ekki would get off at the Hindu Gymkhana while Milind Rege and me used to proceed to Nana Chowk. I really miss Ekki and we had some wonderful times. After nets we used to go out for idli dosa. Often it would be three masala dosas shared by the three of us. Two lassis shared too. And we were always fighting about paying the bus fare. Ekki was such a simple guy but was very confident of himself. I miss ‘Kaka’ (Ashok) Mankad too and Sardeeman (Dilip Sardesai) but I miss Ekki the most.

If there is one drink you miss, would it be Roggers lemonade?
Yes. When we used to play tennis ball cricket at Chikalwadi near Bhatia Hospital, my late uncle Pramod Pandit used to take us for a treat if we were in his team and that treat was Roggers lemonade. There would be around eight of us but that one or one-and-a-half sip tasted unbelievably good.

One snack you are still a sucker for?
Parle-G biscuits. I am surprised that they have not called me for an endorsement.

Do you still dip the biscuit in your tea?
Absolutely. Dropping tea on those four biscuits and ensuring the outer crust remained hard helped me with my concentration.

One type of wine you enjoy?
I am not big on wine but a Chilean would be the best.

One line you say to God everyday?
I just thank him for giving me such a wonderful family, such a wonderful life with friends and affection of so many Indians all over the world.

One quality your son Rohan has got from you?
He is determined like me. He’s got integrity as well.

One adventure which you want to undertake?
I wanted to sky dive which I have done. I would like to go water skiing. I don’t know how to swim but I would like to do it (skiing).

One actress you were attracted to?
Madhubala would have to be the one.

And one favourite actor?
There were some really really great ones but Shammi Kapoor was numero uno. Still is! Every time I see glimpses of an old film of Shammi saab, the blood races.

One actor you made an attempt to look like?
I would have loved to look like Paul Newman which is the reason why I actually started parting my hair on the right side because he used to do it.

One rocket for your critics…
(Laughs) I am going to be 60 so what rocket am I going to give? Just say to them, ‘look, please don’t put words in my mouth. Don’t put headlines to which have no relation to what I’ve written or said’.

One lingering regret?
No regret.

Not even the Melbourne 1981 walkout?
Yes, that is a regret because I was the captain of the country. People who have seen the video will see that it wasn’t that I asked Chetan Chauhan to walk off with me straight after I was given out. It was only after I got the abuse that I turned back and asked Chetan to walk off. I guess as captain of the country, despite the provocation, I really should have kept my cool.

MidDay.com Reference

Sunil Gavaskar Honoured With Doctorate

Sunil Gavaskar Honoured With Doctorate
From ANI

Mumbai, Feb 5: India’s batting legend Sunil Gavaskar was felicitated with an honorary Doctor of Sciences by the D Y Patil University at an exclusive convocation hosted here last evening.

Governor of Maharashtra S C Jamir bestowed the honour on Gavaskar at the university’s third annual convocation.

Gavaskar expressed happiness at the honour, which he attributed to his family members, fellow players and fans. He said:

“This is a big honour not only for me, but also for my sport ‘Cricket’. With the support and wishes of my family, relatives, teachers, my uncle and the ones who have played with me in club cricket, university cricket, school cricket, Ranji cricket and India cricket, I have achieved this honour. On top of it, I have the blessings of Swami Sri Sathya Sai Baba.”

Along with Gavaskar, Ramesh Chandra Sinha, Vice President, MD of Maharashtra Airport Development Company was also felicitated with Doctor of Literature Award.

The ceremony was also attended by Sheila Bai Bapu, General Security Minister, Mauritius; Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Chandra Ramgoolam, Maharashtra Governor S Jamir and Padmashree, Chancellor of Dr. DY Patil University.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest opening batsman in Test match history, Gavaskar set world records during his career for the most runs and most centuries scored by any batsman.

He held the record of 34 Test centuries for almost two decades before Sachin Tendulkar broke it in December 2005.

Daily India Reference

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