|April 4, 2009 |
DreamCricket Academy had a surprise in store for its Under-15 cricketers on Saturday, April 4, 2009. Just as the boys were padding up at DreamCricket's indoor cricket arena on a windy day in New Jersey - they were joined by the legendary cricketer - Sunil Gavaskar.
Whilst on a visit to Wharton India Economic Forum, when DreamCricket.com requested the Little Master to visit the DreamCricket Academy, Mr. Gavaskar immediately agreed despite his hectic schedule.
Mr. Gavaskar connected with the kids instantaneously. Noticing the hands go up reluctantly when he asked who the DreamCricket Academy's opening batsmen were, he joked "I don't blame you. You have to be crazy to be openers!" The kids were not old enough to have seen the Little Master in action during his playing days, but they were awestruck when they were told that the man in front of them was test cricket's best opening batsman ever.
In a short and inspiring speech, Mr. Gavaskar reinforced the importance of sport. "Remember that, above all, this is a sport. You have to enjoy sports. Participating in sports is the biggest high that you can have. I mean, as you get older, as your body gets a little tired, you will feel like I wish I could do this, I wish I could play, but age doesn't allow you, so while you are young, you have the energy, you have the abilities, you must enjoy yourselves."
Mr. Gavaskar told the kids that cricket was a metaphor for life. "The game of cricket is one which tells you what teamwork is all about. It's a reflection of the society that you are in. Sometimes, the better batsman looks after the lesser batsman, the better bowler looks after the lesser bowler."
"The better batsman will not be able to score a century if the lesser batsman doesn't stay at the other end with him. Similarly the better bowler won't get wickets unless the lesser bowler is able to keep some pressure, unless he has the cooperation from the fielders who are taking catches and stopping the runs."
"There are times when the good batsman is struggling, and the lesser batsman comes in and he faces most of the bowling till the good batsman starts to get his form back, starts to get his feet moving, so it is all a matter of cooperation and teamwork. And that's what life is all about."
"Cricket is just a reflection of how to go about life where you try and help everybody, so that it becomes a very peaceful society where everybody helps each other," Mr. Gavaskar added.
About the game's ups and downs, he told the kids not to worry. "Some days you really feel good playing sports, everything falls into place, if you are a batsman, you are hitting the ball, you are getting hundreds, if you are a bowler, you are getting wickets doing everything. On an another day, nothing, not a thing can work. Still you have to go out there with the knowledge that you are putting everything into it. Effort has got to be there 100%. When you put your head on the pillow at night, it should be with the knowledge that you gave it 100%. And then success and failure is in the hands of God."
U-15 cricketers bowled to the Little Master in the nets
"Always wear a helmet," was Mr. Gavaskar's advice to everyone present. These words acquired even more weight because they came from a batsman who never wore a helmet, even as he played the most vicious fastest bowlers cricket has ever produced. He repeated the advice as he sat down to watch the kids play in the nets.
When asked whether American born cricketers had a chance to play cricket at the highest level, Mr. Gavaskar said: "I think that with effort comes better performance. When you perform, you get noticed. And higher honors await you. Throughout the process, enjoy the sport and get the thrill of participation." Mr. Gavaskar was quite impressed with what he had seen and offered some helpful suggestions to popularize the sport.
In her welcome address, DreamCricket.com CEO Ms. Kranthi Bayya said, "It is an amazing honor to have a living legend at the DreamCricket Academy." Noting that it was Mr. Gavaskar's opening partner, Mr. Chetan Chauhan, who opened DreamCricket's indoor facility in the winter of 2007, Ms Bayya said, "it is a dream come true for us at DreamCricket to have India's best opening pair visit the facility."
Kranthi Bayya, CEO of DreamCricket.com
welcomed Sunil Gavaskar to the indoor facility
Talking about his many accomplishments as a player, commentator and writer, Ms. Bayya quoted Tony Lewis' tribute to Mr. Gavaskar from the 1989 Wisden: "You would not wish to be Mr Gavaskar's opponent in any field."
Mr. Gavaskar's quick wit was on display throughout his brief visit. When a parent noted that Sunil Gavaskar held the records for both the most runs and most centuries during his playing days. Mr. Gavaskar shot back, "that was in the last century." And as a woman was struggling to open the plastic wrapper off a DVD that she had brought for his autograph, he said "give that to me, I am the opener!"
Following the speech, Mr. Gavaskar spent an hour in the nets with the kids as they got a chance to bowl to the legend. He then watched some of the kids practice their batting. "The kids are on the right track. I don't see any baseball influence here. I think the coach is doing a wonderful job by focusing on cricketing technique," he said complimenting Coach Earl Daley.
Gavaskar signed autographs for all present
Mr. Gavaskar posed for pictures with those present and signed autographs. Before his departure, he toured DreamCricket.com's facility, which includes a cricket store, indoor nets and houses its collection of memorabilia in addition to the DreamCricket Academy.
Sunil Gavaskar visits DreamCricket.com.
Sunil Gavaskar gave an inspiring speech to the kids
U-15 cricketers bowled to the Little Master in the nets
Sunil Gavaskar poses with the DreamCricket family
Sunil Gavaskar tours the store
Parents of the U15 boys take a picture with the Little Master
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