As former India captain and batting legend Sunil Gavaskar celebrated his 69th birthday today (July 10), rich tributes poured in for Sunny on social media.

Gavaskar’s former team-mate and long-time friend Syed Kirmani spoke exclusively to My Nation and recalled his days with the former opening batsman.

Kirmani hailed Gavaskar as the best opener of his era and revealed how the Mumbai master played pranks on his team-mates.

The former stumper, who, with Gavaskar, was part of the 1983 World Cup winning team, shared an anecdote where they scared team-mate Kirti Azad in Australia.


My Nation: Do you recall your first-ever meeting with Sunil Gavaskar?

Syed Kirmani: It was way back in 1966-67. I was an outstanding Indian school player. I was picked in 1966 when Australian schools toured India. Before that, I think, it was England, who toured and Sunil Gavaskar played against them. In Hyderabad, Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup was considered to be first-class tournament. It has gone for a toss now. The star players of those days played in that tournament. In the same tournament, I met Gavaskar for the first time. I think we shared a room together at Fateh Maidan stadium. The next meeting with Gavaskar was in 1971 during the tour to West Indies where he created a world record (774 runs in four Tests). I was the baby of the team. From 1971 to 1986 we were together playing for India. We had some great pleasantries on tours. Vishy (GR Viswanath) and I were his best friends. Whenever we were in Bombay, he used to invite us home. Gavaskar’s parents were fond of us. Our friendship has grown over the years. He was a great source of motivation and inspiration to all of us. We still continue to share a good friendship.

My Nation: Did Sunil Gavaskar play pranks on team-mates?

Kirmani: He used to be very subtle in his pranks. He used to play his pranks through Sandeep Patil. He used to trigger somebody who was bold enough. Sandy was one of them. We both too shared some good pranks with fellows who took it sportingly. However, Yashpal Sharma was a very serious kind of a guy. We pulled pranks on Yashpal but he never took them in the right spirit. He was getting upset. Even Dilip Doshi took those pranks sportingly but felt they were irritating. Sometimes he used to show a tough face and ignore those pranks.

My Nation: Any one prank which is still fresh in your memory.

Kirmani: Yes I do have one to narrate. I think it was Kirti Azad’s first tour. It was in Australia in 1981, if I remember it correctly. Sunil and Sandy came to my room and said ‘let us scare Kirti Azad’. He was a spooky guy and we decided to play a prank on him at midnight. We (Sunil, Sandy and Kirmani) wore white bed sheets to look like ghosts. We saw Kirti Azad sleeping in his room with the lights off. We three of us entered his balcony, knocked the glass window, made noises. To make him wake up, we made more noises. After all that, he looked at the window, started screaming, fell out of the bed and went under the cot. What a sight it was. We could not believe what we had done to him. The next morning he woke up with high fever because he was so scared that he had seen three ghosts.

My Nation: Your experience of winning the 1983 World Cup with Gavaskar

Kirmani: We had a tremendous amount of camaraderie in the team. We were seven of us, senior to Kapil Dev, the captain. We had tremendous amount of understanding. We chucked away all the ego problems which are embedded in every creation. Each one of us was encouraging, guiding, inspiring the other. That is how we won the World Cup in England.

My Nation: How was Gavaskar as a captain and player?

Kirmani: When he was the captain, he was a man of very few words. His way of inspiring and motivating others was by actions. As a captain, player he always told us, “hey guys, nobody told me to play, encouraged me. I came up by myself. So you guys too do the same. You should learn by seeing others. Put in your best mind and best efforts. Self motivation, self inspiration is the best.’ When the players asked him for help, he was always there for him.

My Nation: According to you, which was Gavaskar’s best knock?

Kirmani: His best Test knock came against the West Indies in Madras (now Chennai) in 1983. I had the honour of playing with him. I was at the non-striker’s end when he scored those runs. I happened to score 60 plus (63 not out) and he hit a double century (236 not out, Gavaskar’s highest score in Tests). The West Indians were aggravated by certain umpiring decisions and bowled beamers. I had the pleasure of sharing a century partnership with him. He was the best opening batsman of my era. He was the most technically sound batsman in the world. He had a fantastic batting technique.