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K.R. NAYAR COLUMN: A spell at the top has to draw on a great lead

Gavaskar showed the way for India’s stars and the same holds good for players from other countries

14:22 July 16, 2017

India is not the top ranked team either in women’s or men’s One Day International cricket, but their players have been leading the way when it comes to individual world records. They now have the highest run-getter in One Day Internationals in women’s cricket in Mithali Raj and, among the men, it is held by Sachin Tendulkar. The highest wicket taker in women’s One Day Internationals is also India’s pacer Jhulan Goswami.

This shows that if one player from a country sets the benchmark, many will follow by emulating his or her feats. The credit for Indian players aiming for the top and reaching there should go to legendary opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar. He did it at a time when Indian players wouldn’t even dream of breaking any record since it was then considered that only players from England, Australia or the West Indies were capable of becoming the best.

At most, Indian players were referred to as good players, but never as record breakers. It was only when Gavaskar broke Don Bradman’s record that Indian players started to believe that it was possible for them to shatter records if one worked hard and nursed the determination to succeed.

No wonder Sachin Tendulkar, who idolised Gavaskar, went on to break almost all records in world cricket.

Role models are important for any budding cricketer. While talking to the best junior cricketers competing for the annual Shyam Bhatia awards, I always make it a point to ask them about their idol. This gives an indication as to whether the youngster has emerged as the best aiming to emulate a great player.

These days, for instance, if the UAE’s best school cricketer is from Pakistan, his idol invariably happens to be Younis Khan. Until a few years ago it used to be Inzamam Ul Haq, and before that it was Javed Miandad.

Recently, when a Sri Lankan youngster bagged the best player award, he named Kumar Sangakkara as his role model.

Every country needs a hero for the younger generation to look up to and gather confidence.

It is a well-known fact that Pakistan produces some of the best pacers mainly because many of them idolise Imran Khan. Very soon, youngsters are sure to follow the path of Mithali and Goswami, too. The days when only cricketers from privileged backgrounds could make a name in the game have gone. Players from middle and low income families too are making waves in the Indian Premier League.

For youngsters living in a country like the UAE where there are no local Test stars to emulate, they should aim to play like former UAE captain and proven match-winner Khurram Khan or Shaiman Anwar, who scored a century in the 2015 World Cup.

Every step taken while never giving up on a dream to succeed at the highest level is what will ultimately help a player earn the tag of a legend.