Gavaskar asks for affordable sports and team to look beyond Dhoni for T20 WC

Sunil Gavaskar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Making Sports in India, Rishabh Pant, T20 World Cup, affordable sports, career option
Gavaskar believes that it's about time that Indian cricket "looks beyond Mahendra Singh Dhoni" and invest in youth going into next year's T20 World Cup in Australia. File Photo: PTI

Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar made strong statements about the Indian men’s cricket team and the sport’s future in the country on Friday (September 21).

While speaking during a panel discussion on ‘Making sports in India’, jointly organised by the Ashwini Sports Foundation and the Embassy Group, Gavaskar batted for making sports affordable, part of school curriculum and a career option to create a positive atmosphere for sports in the country.

“I think India’s biggest plus is its population. It should not be difficult to find champions. I am not necessarily saying gold medalists,” said Gavaskar.

He opined that playing sports should be affordable, and as a serious career option. It should also be a part of the school curriculum, where the sportsperson gets some allowances or incentives in academics as well.

“The moment sport becomes a career option, then everybody, the child, the parents they all get involved in that. Then schools can come in and help by making sports part of their curriculum. I think then we have a win-win situation,” Gavaskar pointed out.

He said cricket flourished in India because the game has emerged as a career option.

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“We don’t necessarily have to play in the IPL, don’t necessarily have to be an international player. Today you play Ranji trophy cricket, you can still make a good career. You make more money than you would be working for a corporate or working for the airlines or the Railways or working for a government company,” Gavaskar said.

Aiming for the T20 World Cup

Gavaskar believes that it’s about time that Indian cricket “looks beyond Mahendra Singh Dhoni” and invest in youth going into next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

The debate has been going on since long as to find the appropriate options as a replacement for the former skipper as wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant has not been able to grab his opportunities in the team. However, he remains to be the legend’s “top-choice” going into the marquee event next year.

“No, we need to look beyond. Mahendra Singh Dhoni at least doesn’t figure in my team. If you are talking about the T20 World Cup, I will certainly think about Rishabh Pant,” Gavaskar told ‘Aaj Tak’ over Dhoni’s selection in the upcoming Bangladesh tour.

For Gavaskar, if Pant doesn’t do well, then Sanju Samson is the next best option.

“If I need to have an alternate option, then I will think of Sanju Samson because Sanju is a good ‘keeper as well as a good batsman. If I have to think of the T20 World Cup, I would think about youth as we need to look forward. Dhoni has made great contribution to Indian cricket but it’s now time to look beyond him,” the iconic opener said.

Also read: Pressure mounts on Pant and other youngsters as India eyes two-match series

Later on the ‘India Today’ channel, Gavaskar said: “I think he (Dhoni) should be going without being pushed out.”

Dhoni, who is yet to announce his international retirement, took a two-month sabbatical from the sport after the ODI World Cup but the current selection committee has already indicated that it doesn’t want to look behind.

However, Pant’s inconsistency and poor shot-selection is hurting the team’s interest as head coach Ravi Shastri had recently pointed out. Batting coach Vikram Rathour too reminded the team’s youngsters about the difference between a “fearless and careless” approach.

Gavaskar, on his part, wants to check whether the young keeper-batsman is batting at the correct number and acknowledged that there will be scrutiny since he started his international career on a rousing note.

“What is Rishabh’s position in batting order — No 4 or 5? Going in to the World T20 in Australia, we will know his (batting) position better. The way he (Pant) started his career in Tests, it was so good and it is obvious that he will be scrutinised. I think whatever is happening is for his good as he can rectify the mistakes he is making,” Gavaskar said.

(With inputs from agencies)