Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe urged the younger generation of Indian batsmen to pick Sunil Gavaskar's brain on how to play fast bowling in adverse conditions, something he did more than three decades back and reaped its benefits.
Crowe recalled how as a young cricketer playing in the Yorkshire league back in 1982, he sought Gavaskar's advice on how to combat fast bowling when the Indians were playing a tour game. The Kiwi was working as a groundsman there.
"When I returned a year later in 1982 and took up the groundsman-and-overseas-player role at Bradford's Park Avenue in North Yorkshire, I didn't quite realise how lucky I would be. When India played Yorkshire that summer, they did so on my patch and dubiously prepared pitch. This was where I met Sunil Gavaskar, one of the all-time greats. I had to get inside this man's head, even if for a minute," Crowe wrote in his column for ESPNCricinfo.
"Being the groundsman gave me the chance. Over the four-day fixture I picked my moment and swooped like a vulture. "Sir, when playing the Windies, what is the single most important thing you must do to combat their pace and bounce?" Crowe recalled asking the legendary Indian batsman.
He then writes about Gavaskar's advice, "Son, it's your eyes. Before I go out to bat, I find a wall and position into my stance with my right ear hard up against the wall. By doing this I feel my head and eyes level, my balance perfect, my feet light and ready to move.
"The wall is ensuring that I stay still. In the middle I pretend the wall is still there. Head position and balance. From there my eyes are in the best position to see the ball and to stay watching it until the shot is played," Gavaskar had told Crowe back then.
"Minutes later, back in the dusty shed, I found my wall. I could stand in position forever, my balance perfect. The mind and body got used to the balance, the more I did it. It was a lustrous piece of advice I never ever forgot. When my form dropped I went back to Gavaskar's elementary instruction," Crowe wrote.
Crowe feels that even Sachin Tendulkar must have soaked in all the advice from Gavaskar when he started off at the international level.
"Whenever I watched Sachin Tendulkar I thought he must have spoken to Sunny about the same thing, for Sachin always displayed a still, balanced stance and head position Now it's up to others to carry the torch. In the cauldron of South Africa it's up to a new breed of Indian batsmen to carry the baton that Sunny and Sachin did so incredibly, for so long," Crowe further wrote.
Crowe then went onto explain why Gavaskar and Tendulkar were the two most successful players against fast bowling despite both not being blessed with good heights.
"These two men are not tall, so bounce was always their greatest enemy. Yet they trusted that if they saw the ball in a balanced position, with feet at the ready, they would move according to the movement of the ball, whatever shape that took. Eyes, then footwork. In that split second, once they saw the trajectory, the feet went to work, allowing the eyes to stay watching," Crowe explained in his column.
"Dealing with bounce became just another obstacle, another movement to deal with. The key was their mental strength to clear the mind of any doubt, any second-guessing."
"When I first played West Indies, in Port-of-Spain, I assumed I needed to be ready a split second early, so I started moving before I saw the ball. I got 3 and 2 as Holding and Marshall easily trapped a moving, nervous target. It was a hopeless performance.
"I went back to Sunny's sage advice and used the wall technique. A week later, in Georgetown, albeit on a flatter track that gave me a chance to build a more positive mindset, I batted so much better. After that I realised fully what Sunny had meant. It was the start of my international career proper," Crowe recollected.
Image: Sunil Gavaskar
Photograph: Chris Cole/All Sport