Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar has paid a moving tribute to his former opening partner, Chetan Chauhan, who passed away in a Gurugram hospital due to complications that followed his testing positive for Covid-19 last month. Chauhan was suffering with a kidney element and his health further deteriorated when he contracted the deadly virus last month.
The former cricketer-turned-politician breathed his last on Sunday evening. Chauhan, who was a minister in Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet in Uttar Pradesh, recently suffered from kidney failure and was put on the ventilator at the Medanta hospital in Gurugram. He was originally admitted to the Sanjay Gandhi PGI hospital in Lucknow when he tested positive for the virus last month but was later shifted to the Medanta.
Chauhan has the distinction of being Sunil Gavaskar’s longest serving opening partner. Together the duo scored over 3,000 runs. The former India openers shared 11 Test century partnerships during the 1970s. Overall, Chauhan represented India in 40 Tests and 7 ODIs.
Sunil Gavaskar’s tribute for his opening partner:
In his statement, Sunil Gavaskar opened up on his close friendship with Chauhan and shared an emotional anecdote. He revealed how Chauhan always used to tell him ‘we are in the mandatory overs of life’ before expressing his disappointment over not being able to share another century partnership with his partner.
“‘Aaja, aaja, gale mil, after all we are in the mandatory overs of life’ was the usual greeting of my opening partner Chetan Chauhan whenever we met over the last two or three years. The meetings were invariably at his beloved Ferozeshah Kotla ground where he was in charge of the pitch preparation. As we hugged I would say to him ‘no, no we must have another century partnership’ and he would laugh and say ‘arre baba you are the century maker, not me’.
“Never in my wildest nightmares could I believe his words about being in the mandatory overs of life would come true so soon. It’s so hard to believe that his laughter and cheerful banter won’t be there the next time I go to Delhi,” he said.
Sunil Gavaskar, who was once the record-holder of most number of centuries in Tests, further recalled how he was responsible for Chauhan missing out on centuries on a couple of occasions. Chauhan could not score a century in his 40-Test career with 97 being his top score.
“Talking of centuries, I firmly believe I was responsible for him missing out on two occasions, both in Australia in the 1980/81 series Down under. In the second Test in Adelaide he was on 97 when my teammates pulled me out of my chair in front of the TV and dragged me to the players’ balcony saying I must get there to cheer my partner.
“I was a bit superstitious about watching from the players’ enclosure as then the batsman would get out and so would always watch on the dressing room TV. Once the landmark was reached, then I would rush to the balcony and join in the cheers. However, here I was in the Adelaide balcony when Dennis Lillee came in to bowl and would you believe Chetan was caught behind first ball.
“I was livid and told the players off for having got me to the balcony but that wasn’t going to change what had happened. A few years later, I didn’t make the same mistake when Mohammad Azharuddin was approaching his third consecutive hundred in Kanpur. As soon as he got to the coveted mark, I was out of the change room applauding him from next to the sightscreen. However, some of my friends in the media who had the knives out for me then made a big story of my so called absence. Amazingly, they had had nothing to say about the absence of some when a year earlier I got my 29th century to be level with Sir Don Bradman in Delhi.
“The second occasion that I believe I was responsible for Chetan missing a hundred was when I lost my head after being abused by the Australians as I was leaving the pitch after a terrible decision (at MCG). Trying to drag Chetan off the field with me must have disrupted his concentration and he was again out short of a century a little later,” said the legendary batsman.
Gavaskar also hailed Chauhan for his generosity. He revealed how Chauhan played an important part in ensuring tax exemptions for sportsperson in India.
“There’s one thing few players of my generation and the one immediately after that don’t know is his contribution in getting tax exemptions for them. Both of us first met the late R Venkataraman, who was Finance minister of the country then, and requested him to consider a tax exemption for fees received for playing for India. (I) must add that it wasn’t just for cricket but for all sportspersons who played for India. We explained how when we were junior cricketers we had to spend a lot of money on equipment, travel, coaches, etc., when we had no income at all.
“Venkatramanji was most considerate and in a notification he passed a ruling that gave us 75% standard deduction for a Test match fee, then an exemption on 50% of the tour fees which we received before leaving for a tour. The cherry on the cake though was the total exemption on the One-day match fees of Rs.750 which we received those days. Mind you we barely played a game or two of one-day international then. That notification was in place till about 1998 by which time the number of one-day internationals had increased dramatically as also as the fees which were around 1 lakh or so.
“Chetan always said if we were asked what our best contribution to Indian cricket was we should say it was getting the tax exemptions. His desire to help others manifested in him joining politics and right till the end he was a giver, not a taker.
“He had a wicked sense of humour too. His favourite song as we walked out to face some of the most hostile bowlers in the game was ‘muskura ladle muskura’. That was his way of easing the nerves while confronting challenges.
“Now that my partner is no more how can I ‘muskura’?
“May your soul have everlasting peace, partner.”
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