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Don't push the Indians too far: Sobers
Gulu Ezekiel |
May 21, 2003 20:38 IST
Sir Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, the greatest all-rounder in cricket history, has made numerous startling observations about Indian cricket and society in his latest book, Garry Sobers: My Autobiography (published by Headline) which was released last year and is just out in India in its paperback edition.
Ghosted by British journalist Bob Harris, the book traces his life and career that started with his first-class debut in 1953 as a 16-year-old for Barbados against the touring Indian team and ended in 1975.
Sobers made two tours to India (1958-59 and 1966-67), both of which were successful for his side and for himself, and highly eventful as well, particularly the latter, when he was captain.
It was in the third Test at Eden Gardens, Calcutta, in December-January 1966-67 that players from both sides came under threat from rioting spectators who went on the rampage after the authorities had grossly oversold tickets.
"They (the Indians) are not usually violent people," says Sobers in the chapter 'Reluctant Tourist'. "But they say they have the worst tempers in the world and once started, they cannot be stopped. It takes a lot to get them going, but once the trigger is pulled, watch out.
"I have seen Indians cursed and abused and all they do is laugh. Push and they won't retaliate, but hope and pray to God that you don't push once too often because you would not like what you see. They can be the most violent people in the world and this what Mahatma Ghandi [sic -- the same misspelling is used for Indira Gandhi's name] fought for, to teach them to turn the other cheek. He took all that punishment because he wanted them to understand that to rebel wasn't the way and that they must not fight back."
It was not all violence and mayhem though. It was on this tour that Sobers got engaged to "a beautiful young actress, the 17-year-old" Anju Mahendru (which in the book is spelt 'Mahindu'!). He remembers the affair with fondness ("she was so beautiful and such a nice person"), though he reveals for the first time that if he had taken her to England for marriage as he intended, he would have had to deposit "a certain amount of money in the Reserve Bank as a sort of dowry".
Eventually the distance between the two proved to be their undoing as he was busy playing county cricket in England. In 1969, when he got engaged to his former Australian wife, he claims he had to phone Mahendru for her permission and get a letter from her, releasing him from his proposal.
Sobers waxes eloquent about how the Indian public took to him and treated him as a celebrity on the tour, though there is a mystery over the identity of "one of the top Bollywood, actors Djulip Singh"!
On Indian cricketers, he refers to the late leg-spinner Subhash Gupte as "a truly outstanding bowler" and Bishan Singh Bedi as "very clever, a magnificent left-arm bowler.a top-class bowler. In his day there was no one better."
Strangely, there is no mention of Sachin Tendulkar in his assessment of today's best batsmen, though Brian Lara has a chapter to himself. Sobers refers to Sunil Gavaskar as "one of the very best batsmen I ever saw".
But his verdict on Chandra (actually, Chandu) Borde is pretty strange too. He mentions his occasional leg-spin bowling while failing to note that Borde scored a century and 96 in the fifth Test at New Delhi in 1959 as well as two centuries in the 1966-67 series.
It was on the tour to Pakistan in 1959 (his only one) that, Sobers reveals, there was a planned campaign by the local authorities with the connivance of the umpires to ensure he would not score heavily. Sobers had recorded the then world record of 365 not out against Pakistan a year earlier at Kingston, Jamaica.
But in Pakistan he packed his bags and threatened to leave after receiving contentious decisions early on the tour.
Both Sobers and his 'ghost' obviously have a problem with Indian names. In listing the Rest of the World team that he captained in Australia in 1971-72, he mentions Bedi, Farrokh Engineer and Gavaskar and "a fellow from India who had never played Test cricket". There was no such player in the side.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author based in New Delhi. His latest book is Sourav: A Biography (Penguin India).