Sunil Gavaskar, who made his debut for India on a tour of West Indies in 1971, was so overwhelmed by the behaviour of one of the players in the opposition side – Rohan Kanhai – that it “was a no-brainer” to name his son after him, said the former India great. Gavaskar’s son Rohan, born in 1976, is also a former India cricketer, having played 11 ODIs in the early 2000s.
Speaking on a recent episode of 22 Yarns with Gaurav Kapur, Sunil Gavaskar narrated how Kanhai “secretly encouraged” him during his debut series, adding that race issues within the West Indies would have contributed to Kanhai’s endorsement.
“Apart from his batsmanship, (why I respected Rohan Kanhai so much was because of) how he secretly encouraged me. There’s always been this issue between African-origin people and Indian-origin people in Trinidad, Guyana,” Gavaskar said on being asked to speak about naming his son after the West Indies great.
Kanhai, a Guyanese, was the first Indian-origin player to captain the West Indies, and the second after Sonny Ramadhin to play for the West Indies.
Gavaskar said, “In my debut series, if I played a bad shot, when crossing over me to go to the slips for the next over, if he was not within earshot of the wicketkeeper, he would whisper in my ear: ‘Concentrate! Don’t you want a 100? What’s the matter with you?'”
“He’s in the opposition, he’s not swearing at me, he actually wants me to get a 100. Unbelievable!” he said.
Gavaskar made an instant impact in international cricket in the 1971 series, scoring three centuries and one double century. This 1971 series is a landmark series in Indian cricket, as they beat West Indies at home for the first time, registering a 1-0 series win.
“Off the field, he (Kanhai) was one of the nicest guys I ever met. Naming my son after him was a no-brainer,” Gavaskar said. Incidentally, Kanhai’s West Indies teammate Alvin Kallicharan had also named his son Rohan.
Gavaskar also said Kanhai was at the crease when he bowled his first over in international cricket, also in the 1971 series. “He square cut my third or fourth ball for a four. So, as is the natural reaction for a fast bowler, I then bowled him a bouncer. He was surprised but he ducked under it and then laughed at me. He was used to playing much faster bowlers than me,” Gavaskar said with a laugh.
“One of my daydreams was to get Kanhai caught behind off an outswinger,” he added.
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