The legendary Indian batsman and former captain Sunil Gavaskar, through a thought-provoking interview to Gulf News, has suggested a few changes in support of the bowlers to make cricket battles more exciting.

Responding to a query on changes that he would like to see being introduced in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Gavaskar, who bravely faced the fearsome pacers without a helmet and became the first batsman to reach the 10,000 run mark in the history of the game, said: “I want the umpires to be a little relaxed about the bouncers. Today what happens is that if the bouncer is even a couple of inches above the batsman’s helmet they call it ‘wide’. I think it should be more than a foot or something where the batsman actually cannot reach that should be called a ‘wide’.

“A couple of inches above the helmet is a very good bouncer... so that should not be penalised. You should not have everything going for the batsman; you must give the bowlers some chance. So umpires should go a little easier in calling a wide. They should make sure the ball is really way above the helmet before calling a wide.”

Gavaskar would like to see the boundary rope pushed back. “I would like to see the boundary rope being pushed back because this is a game of power now, and the batsmen are powerful and strong. Since there will be no crowd this time, pushing the boundary back will be easier. The LED advertising board can be pushed right back towards the fence. Years ago I had suggested to the International Cricket Council the bottom half of the advertising board be made of sponge. So when the players slide into it, there is no damage or injury. Right now, when they slide forward they could go hit their head on it, and when they slide sideways their ankle can get hit.”

Gavaskar has arrived in Dubai to enthrall IPL fans around the world as one of the commentators. When the last edition of the IPL was held in UAE in 2014, he’d played a different role as the organiser of the event since he was the interim President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

“In 2014 when the first half of the tournament was held in the UAE, it was a wonderful experience. Everything was fabulously organised. The support from Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, (then Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development and present Chairman of the Emirates Cricket Board) and his team at the ECB, and the sports councils were absolutely terrific. Their co-operation was like it was their own tournament. They looked after the IPL as it was the UAE Premier League. I was very happy with the way it was staged and there was a talk at that stage that if there was to be a Champions League later on in the year in September-October, it could be held in the UAE. That it did not happen is another story.”

The ‘Little Master’ is hoping that His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who came to watch the IPL in 2014, does come again. “I wish just like the last time when I was the President if Sheikh Mohammad can come again this time and grace the occasion, that will be fantastic. I must thank Avi Bhojani and Ajay Sethi for liaising with His Highness Sheikh Mohammad’s office and getting him to attend the match last time. So, hopefully, if we have his presence this time too, it will only add more prestige to this fantastic tournament.”

As President of the BCCI, Gavaskar followed a policy of transparency through constant interaction with the media. “As President, I think it was important to communicate with the media, and through the media to the cricket-loving public, as to what was happening because that, to me, was the best way so there is no speculation or idle gossip that normally happens when the communication is not as good. I believe it worked well because the tournament was absolutely fantastic and flawless even when it returned to India for the second half. For that, I think the credit must go to the BCCI and its office because many people don’t realise how good that office is that organises the IPL. The guys there are working nearly 18 to 20 hours a day a couple of months before the IPL starts, and that kind of hard work is what goes into making this such a successful tournament. While the stars are on the field, the ones behind are not always recognized; and I saw it the first time as the President how stressful it was at the BCCI office, and the hard work not just for the office bearers at the cricket centres but also for those at the other venues to make this such a successful tournament.”

Commenting on fans not being able to watch the action from the ground, Gavaskar said: “The crowds actually love to go and support their teams at the ground wearing their team shirts and bringing in all the paraphernalia, getting their faces painted, waving the flags and also the boundary and six boards. All these add terrific flavor to the tournament but sadly that won’t happen this time. These are the times that I am sure the crowd also understands why such things cannot happen. Who knows if the COVID situation in UAE improves; then maybe towards the end of October or maybe for the knockout stages you might see a few people allowed in and that will be fantastic.”

Gavaskar believes that it is important to have the IPL going on. “It is a positive message to the world that the tournament is taking place here because in India we have our challenges. We were hoping that there would be some measure of control by August or the end of August so that the tournament could have been held in India. Unfortunately, that did not happen, so the best option was to have it here since the UAE has done it before. We also know how well the UAE had organised the Asia Cup and all the other tournaments that are held here.”

About the weather in the UAE, Gavaskar remarked. “We know it is going to be extremely hot till maybe the middle of October, but at least the weather is guaranteed. There was some talk about taking IPL to Sri Lanka. But over there were possibilities of rain. And should it rain during a match, then it means sharing of points, which would not be very helpful. It also made a lot of sense from the broadcasting point of view since there is not much of a time difference between the UAE and India. And given that there is so much of money being put in by the broadcasters, it is important to look their interest since they are the ones who are keeping the IPL going.”

“In 2014 when the first half of the tournament was held in the UAE, it was a wonderful experience...”