Gavaskar rues loss of innocence

MUMBAI: Sunil Gavaskar the legendary opening batsman who is credited with giving Indian cricket a voice, has lamented cricket's loss of innocence. Speaking on the eve of his 60th birthday, Gavaskar said while the game has become more attractive to watch today some of the old values have gone out of it.

Gavaskar, who played 125 Tests between 1971 and 1987 and was the first batsman to score 10,000 Test runs, said that the win-at-all-cost system has brought the unpleasant things that happen in the game have come to the fore.

"I think in a sense the romance is gone. The appreciation of the game, whether it was by your own team or by the opposition, is not quite so much.

"You rarely see fielders go up to applaud somebody getting a half-century any more. Players are aware that the TV cameras are on them. So they might have just one clap and that's it - almost as if to say that if you have more than two or three claps for the opposition, then it's a kind of weakness. I don't think that's a correct thing."

When asked if he would have been happier playing today when there is far more money and fame, Gavaskar said: "Maybe not, for the simple reason that there was an innocence about the game when I was kid, which is perhaps not quite there now. I think I would prefer the innocence of the game that was there when I was a teenager."

Gavaskar, who has been a trenchant and vocal voice against sledging, repeated his opposition to what he termed as "nothing but abuse of the opposition".

"Sometimes players get away saying things to the opposition on the field that they would never get away with saying to anybody off the field. One day this might lead to a physical confrontation on the field.

"Are you trying to tell me the Bradmans, the Benauds, the Cowdreys, the Soberses did that? They didn't. There might be a joke or two, where even the butt of the joke laughs. A little gamesmanship did not affect us either. Today it is not that."

The biggest challenge the game faces today, according to Gavaskar, is the gap in quality between the top Test teams and the rest. He said while it was difficult to make all 10 teams equal cricketing powers, at least having six strong teams would be a big step forward. However he did not believe Test cricket was under threat from the game's newest format. Instead, he said Twenty20, like ODIs, would help Tests become more attractive.