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I’m a fan of Jai forever: Gavaskar

Posted March 30th, 2021, 11:05 AM IST

I’m a fan of Jai forever: Gavaskar

Legendary cricketer Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, literally, came, saw and won the hearts of the gathering that came to listen to him deliver the inaugural M L Jaisimha Foundation lecture here on Monday.

“I wouldn’t have missed anything in the world. I’m a fan of Motganhalli Laxminarsu Jaisimha forever, Fan forever. For me to visit the academy to speak at the foundation about my hero is a great privilege and honour,” he said.

Going down the memory lane, Gavaskar said he became Jaisimha’s fan when he first saw him in a black and white picture of the Indian team to England in 1959. “There was Jaisimha in the picture. I became a fan. I don’t know what the attraction was. I hadn’t see him play, but I just followed him with great interest.”

Gavaskar said his admiration for Jaisimha grew further after the stalwart batted for all the five days of a Test match against Australia at Eden Gardens in Kolkata in the 1959-60 series.

The former India opener felt Jai was never given a permanent spot in Indian batting. “In his first nine Test matches, his average was 52.75 and then of course he was never given a position. He has opened the bowling and batting for India 13 times in Test matches. Jai had 431 first class wickets. He was a true all-rounder, he could bowl medium pace, bowl off spin too.”

Gavaskar said he was lucky to play with Jai. “Who thought I would be on the same flight (in 1971). He was fantastic although he did not have the best of tours. Every evening I went to two rooms, one was captain Ajit Wadekar’s and the other Jai. It was a learning curve for us. It was just an incredible experience. I had two 50 partnerships with Jai. I wish some more runs were added to Jai and Salim (Durrani) uncle’s scores so that they could have been included in the England tour. That was the last opportunity to bat with my hero.”

Gavaskar said every March 3, he wakes up with a smile as it is his hero’s birthday. “The first thing I say is Happy birthday Jai. It is unforgettable and that is what I do even now.”

And July 7, is the day when Gavaskar hates to wake up for it is on this day in 1999, that his hero passed away. “It is the day Jai left us. I had been avoiding seeing him. I knew that he wasn’t well. I wanted to see him as a hero and I didn’t want to see him in any sort of pain.”

It was his wife’s insistence he flew to Hyderabad. “I called June (Jayanthi Jaismha) and she said please come. I came on the same day and spent some time. He was sedated and held his hand and talked to him. Told him what he meant to me. I could feel him pressing my hand.”

Gavaskar said Jaisimha comes in some other way that can cheer up all. “July 7 happens to be the birthday of one of the greatest Indians, not cricketer, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. That lifts me up because MSD also was a dashing player, just like ML, plays big shots. Every time I see MSD, there is something that comes through. Good looks, of course. I also became an Arsenal fan because of their coach/manager Arsene Wenger who looks so much like Jai. Every time I see Wenger, I see Jai.”