Quite often we talk about how test cricket is actually a reflection of life itself. In order to successfully navigate through the challenges of test cricket one needs to be armed with the very same attributes that are required to overcome the hurdles life throws at us – patience, determination and courage. One of the greatest exponents of those very same qualities was none other than the Original Little Master – Sunil Manohar Gavaskar. Arguably, the greatest opening batsman in the history of the game, Gavaskar in his lengthy international career (1971 – 1987) literally personified patience, determination & courage and in turn earned the respect of both opposition players and team mates. His brave hearted display of batting without a helmet against the fearsome West Indies pace battery on lively Caribbean pitches in his debut series not only delivered India’s first test and series win against the West Indies, it even made the West Indian crowds sing songs celebrating Gavaskar’s incredible performance. For the next sixteen years enroute to being the first batsman to score ten thousand runs in test cricket there was not a single ball that was fast enough or a pitch bouncy enough to make the little man bat an eyelid.
However, facing the scariest fast bowlers in the history of the game on uncovered pitches and without helmet is probably not his greatest act of bravery. A few years ago his son, Rohan Gavaskar, while speaking at an event organized by the Sports Journalists’ Association of Mumbai had narrated an incident that takes the definition of courage to an all new level. According to him, a few days after the Bombay Serial Blasts of 1993 he was standing with his father on their terrace when they saw a family being cornered by a hate mob. Even from a distance it was quite clear to them that the mob’s intention was to physically harm the family and possibly kill them. True to his courageous self Sunil Gavaskar didn’t waste a moment before running down to the street to face the raging mob. Placing himself between the murderous hate mob and the helpless family he had calmly and sternly declared to the mob that if they had to get to the family they would have to go through him first. In India if there is one thing that can unite people of different religions and political beliefs it has to be cricket. That’s exactly what happened on that fateful day. The hate mob couldn’t bring itself to harm the man who was not just a cricketer but an icon to them.
For some, this anecdote might sound like a bout of insanity but to many others this will probably be the epitome of bravery. Once again just like his batting Gavaskar proved that with courage and determination even the toughest of challenges can be overcome.