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Sunil Gavaskar carried India’s pride on his shoulders for many a years on the cricket pitch. It was, hence, no surprise that Indian Cricket called on his leadership in its rough times.
Taking over as the interim President of BCCI and IPL, Sunil Gavaskar batted for Indian Cricket with aplomb, once again. The credibility he brings to the table with his stature and his invaluable insight into the game has ensured Pepsi IPL 2014 has reached its business end without any unscrupulous incident.
As the seventh successful season of the tournament draws to an end, IPLT20.com spoke to Mr. Gavaskar about his experiences at the helm of the IPL.
Here are excerpts from his exclusive interview:
Has this stint opened your eyes to any aspect of the IPL that you didn’t know of previously?
From the administration point of view, to see how the logistics works, and trying to get everything together, has been a revelation. To see what kind of hard work goes into it has been an eye-opener. A lot of people, who come to the television control room, have their jaws dropping when they see the kind of work that needs to be done to get the picture to the viewer’s screen. While the players and commentators get all the kudos, it’s really the backroom boys, the engine room of the administration, and the TV coverage people that do all the hard work. Seeing all that closely has been a real revelation for me.
What is the biggest challenge that a former cricketer faces when he turns to administration?
The biggest challenge for him is to put forward some of the ideas he has and the suggestions he has based on of the observations he might have made while playing, and to convince the other members of the administration team to act on them. Often, we go by tradition and there’s reluctance to accept a change. That is the biggest challenge for a player-turned-administrator. Having said that, mine has been a really short stint, hardly four-five weeks. So, it’s not right for me to be judgmental about it.
Has it been easier for you to get your ideas incorporated, given your stature in Indian Cricket?
It has been a lot easier because frankly there has been very little change that’s required to be made. What I tried to do when I took over the job is to make the IPL organization a little more media-friendly and more accessible to the media. It is important to keep the media as informed as possible and try to keep them in loop so that there are no unwanted speculations and wild rumours. At the end of the day, it’s the media people who’ll have to say whether or not it has worked, but I do believe that this accessibility has given the BCCI and IPL a better face than before.
What has been the highlight of the season for you?
I think the highlight for me was the way the UAE leg went through. The response we got from fans and organizers there was incredible. The organization and the management went on very smoothly as well.
You spoke extensively in your opening ceremony speech about cleansing the game. The players and officials have a role to play in curbing corruption in cricket. Is there any way the fans can help?
The fans can actually help to a great extent because in the end it’s they who follow the game and it’s their belief that matters. They should stay away from all the loose talks that happen when the results don’t go their team’s way. That’s when all the speculations happen. It’s important for the fans to have faith in the cricketing fraternity. Just because one or two players have gone down the wrong road, it doesn’t mean the rest of the players are guilty. That is what the fans should actually believe in. The fans only believe what they are fed by the media. Why has the media become so cynical and how can we change that?
The media has a job to do – the print media needs to sell their papers and the electronic media has to take care of their ratings. Sometimes, they can go overboard. But having said that, the media plays an important role in popularizing the game. They are one of the pillars of the sport. Just because they get a tad carried away when it comes to India’s most popular sport, I don’t think we should hold it against them. We should be thankful for the coverage that cricket gets in India from both the print and the electronic media.
What is that one thing that international cricket can adopt from the IPL?
It’s the marketability. The way this event is marketed and promoted, I think the other countries can take a cue from it to market, not only the T20s, but the other formats as well. And it’s not only the IPL management – the broadcasters, sponsors and other stakeholders have all come together and done a marvelous marketing job, which is why the tournament is increasing in popularity. What according to you is IPL’s biggest contribution to cricket?
It’s the respect among the cricketers of different countries. Prior to 2008, there was a lot of animosity among the players of different nationalities. Now, the intensity is still there and the players still play hard, but the animosity has come down incredibly. There will always be an odd player who will not be liked by an opposition, but that’s the fact of life. You don’t like everybody in your organization and there will always be a bit of friction there. But the number of on-field incidents has gone down remarkably. You’ll still find the occasional incident, but that’s about it.
If you could change one thing about the IPL, what would it be?
Nothing in particular because at the moment it is running well. It’s a tournament where you get to see some fantastic cricket. However, if I were given complete charge, I would insist on the pitches being good. That’s what I did when I landed in the UAE because I wasn’t sure if the pitches there would be good. I’ve always felt that on a good cricket pitch, you’ll get a good cricket game. That is something I would like to see more often. From the bowlers’ point of view, I’d like to see the boundaries being a bit longer. I do understand that certain distance is required between the boundary and the fence with all the sliding that the fielders do these days. But I still feel that the boundaries are being moved in a lot more than they should. At every ground I have seen, the boundaries could have been at least five to ten yards deeper. That would be the difference between a lot of those marginal sixes and a wicket for the bowler. It would also mean that a six is really a six.
Name one player from India’s 1983 side who would have been most successful in a tournament like the IPL and why?
Faf du Plessis joined Chennai Super Kings in 2011, the same year he played his first game for South Africa. He spent his entire first season with CSK on the bench, watching, learning, preparing and growing – as a cricketer, leader and person. Fast forward three years and Faf is now South Africa’s T20 captain and one of the senior members of the CSK unit.
After the Chennai team clinched the Eliminator against Mumbai Indians at Brabourne Stadium to progress to Qualifier 2, du Plessis spoke to IPLT20.com about his journey with CSK and the impact that MS Dhoni has had on him in regards with captaincy. Faf also told us about his favourite batting position in the T20 format and described the change in his role with CSK this season. Here are excerpts from his interview:
Pretty normal stuff for CSK this – getting through in the big games?
Yes, we played pretty well. There were some nervous moments, but Suresh Raina has played a lot of cricket and has done it in high-pressure situations. And this is what CSK has done over a long period of time; in these stages of the competition, we play our best cricket.
What was the reason behind changing the successful opening pair of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum in such big game?
There was a notion of Brendon being away for two games and myself and Dr. Smith being really good up front. But the theory behind this move is for him to come in at No.4 and still be very aggressive. He does not need to change his game just because his batting position has changed. We want each batsman to come in and take the attack to the opposition. If as a batting line-up you can do that, you always have the bowlers in real pressure. Unfortunately, it didn’t come off tonight for McCullum, but that’s the style of play we are going to look to adapt to in the next game and the Final, if we get there – with every partnership, we’ll try to put pressure on the bowling attack.
Personally, where do you like to bat in a T20 game?
I love to open. I bat at No.3 for South Africa in T20s. I opened the batting for CSK in most games in IPL 2012 and really enjoyed that. This year, they wanted me to bat at No.4 and almost be the link between the big power-hitters at the top and those to follow. So, my role has been a bit more conservative – just putting those guys on strike and carrying the innings. Now, it’s good to get back in the role where I can set the attacking tone in the first six overs.
Till the last season, CSK were known for being slow starters in the IPL. Was there specific talk of changing that this year?
This year, we had a completely different squad; obviously, the core of the Indian players was intact, but there were a lot of new players coming in. So, we started the competition afresh, looking for the momentum, which we found in the UAE. T20 cricket is all about momentum – we won six-seven games in a row and then lost three. We’ve got it back with the win against RCB and now this one.
But it would have felt different in a bad way to not finish in the top two?
We could say that we were a bit unlucky because we played good cricket consistently for the best part of the tournament and only quite dropped the pace in those three games we lost. But having said that, I was involved with the team last year when our bags were packed and we were all ready to go home. We had three more games in the Group Stage and they all went our way and we made the Final. So, it works both ways. At this stage, it is good that we know we have to win the remaining two games to take the cup home and also the fact that there’s hardly any rest now. That helps maintain the rhythm.
You are now in charge of the Proteas T20 team. Is there anything you have or want to incorporate in your leadership from MS Dhoni, besides his well documented calmness?
I have been very fortunate in that regards. I joined CSK when I was reasonably young, when I had just started playing for South Africa. It was nice for me to be in an environment with MS, who had already played a lot of cricket and was a very successful captain for his country. It was nice for me to just sit on the side and learn from him. Besides the calmness, like you said is his trademark, for me what stands out is the way he leads the team with his own performance. He’s the guy who always wants to finish the game. That’s exactly what you want from the leader. He doesn’t leave things for someone else, but takes up the responsibility himself. Besides MS, I have been fortunate to have someone like Stephen Fleming around, who has been a fantastic leader himself. I have played under Graeme Smith for a long time now as well. It’s nice to take the best from all of them and then to use your own blueprint to fill in the areas to try and be the most perfect captain you want to be.
Do you also use the IPL matches to think more like a captain; think about what is happening around and the game situations?
Yes, I’ve always played my cricket like that. I enjoy being very active on the field in terms of thinking. At CSK, we are lucky to have so many international captains among ourselves. But having said that, we also know that this is MS’ team and we respect all the decisions that he makes. But when I’ve got an idea, I run to MS and share my thoughts with him. And he always listens.