‘Gavaskar told Kapil, don’t worry I’ll score when time comes’: Maninder Singh recalls ’86 England tour | Exclusive
Maninder Singh, who played 26 Test matches and 35 ODIs with Sunil Gavaskar between 1982 and 1987, referred to the great man as the ‘God of concentration’.
Former Indian left-arm spinner Maninder Singh played in an era when Indian cricket was going through a revolutionary phase. Seven months after his debut India had etched its name in the history of the game by winning the 1983 World Cup. Despite not being a part of that squad, he sensed the change. Suddenly every child aspired to be a cricketer, the scrutiny on those representing the country doubled and there was a growing expectation for excellence. The change, however, was very little for one man – Sunil Manohar Gavaskar.
He always had to carry the load of expectations. The eyeballs, the attention, the cameras were nothing new. With the World Cup winner tag, they had just begun to exude more pressure.
It was however not strong enough to find a chink in Gavaskar’s armour. Yes the run-scoring consistency and hundreds at will were not happening smoothly as per Gavaskar’s own set standards after the 1983 World Cup – The opener scored at an average of 48.01 in 35 tests after the World Cup which is lower than his career average of 51.12 - but his unmatchable concentration was still his USP.
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Maninder, who played 26 Test matches and 35 ODIs with Gavaskar between 1982 and 1987, referred to the great man as the ‘God of concentration’.
“I used to call him God of concentration. I’ll give you the reason for it. When I was in the team and used to see him go in the nets, nobody had to tell him about the last round. He used to be out of the nets, precisely after 10 minutes. Every time I used to look at my watch to track the time, it will always be 10 minutes from the time he went in to the time he came out and amazingly, he never had a watch on his wrist,” Maninder told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.
Maninder further explained Gavaskar’s level of concentration by recalling an incident during India’s tour to England in 1986.
He said Gavaskar, who was at the twilight of his career, was going through a lean patch in the tour games before the Test series but continued to stay confident and even told Kapil Dev not to worry about his form.
“During the 1986 tour of England, he was not scoring runs in the tour games. But I remember he used to tell Kapil Dev ‘don’t worry, I will give you runs when the time comes,’” Maninder recalled.
The former left-armer who picked up 88 and 66 wickets for India in 35 Tests and 59 ODIs, said Gavaskar had sort of pre-decided to score runs in a warm-up game against Somerset when there was too much talk about his lack of form.
“What happened was the Indian press started writing him off when he wasn’t scoring in those warm-up games against the County sides. So I remember a game against Somerset, me and Kapil were coming from a fielding practice and India were batting. I was all drenched even in that winter in England. I and Kapil paaji had put in so much effort jogging, sprinting, and bowling that I was covered with sweat. Gavaskar before going out to bat tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘son don’t go and change, sit in that balcony and watch me score a hundred.’ And he scored a hundred. His concentration level was so good that he knew ‘now the time has come, I have to concentrate’,” said Maninder, who was not playing in that tour game against Somerset.
Gavaskar hadn’t opened in that match for India. He had come out bat at No.5 and remained unbeaten on 136 to help India to 389 for 9 declared.
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Gavaskar couldn’t quite manage to replicate that performance in the Test series as he scored 175 runs in six innings with only one half-century.
“He was not a big trainer, he never trained too much. I think he used to train himself mentally. In international cricket, you have to be mentally strong that is what matters the most,” added Maninder.
About 13 months later, Gavaskar would go on to become the first cricketer to score 10,000 test runs. He had completed the milestone against Pakistan in Ahmedabad. The next match in Bengaluru incidentally would turn out to be the last Test of Gavaskar. He announced his retirement in November that year after playing an ODI against England.
Gavaskar retired after scoring 10,122 runs in 125 Tests at an average of 51.12. He scored 34 centuries which was the most by any cricketer before Sachin Tendulkar went past it in 2005.
“Gavaskar was not only a cricketer but also a great human being,” said Maninder.