“You can’t drop such a big player. We allowed him to play the Test series against Sri Lanka, and he broke the world record (for being the highest wicket-taker) in the Ahmedabad Test. We thought he’ll announce his retirement after breaking the world record. However, that evening, in the press conference, he said that he’ll play for two more years.
“Next day, a seemingly hassled Vishy (chief selector Gundappa Viswanth) told me: ‘See the headlines of the newspapers. Kapil is saying that he will play for 2 more years,’” reminisced Gaekwad, before elaborating about the incident further.
“That same evening, there was a selection committee meeting. (Jagmohan) Dalmiya was the BCCI secretary. So we sat and decided that it was time for Kapil to quit (international cricket). I suggested to Dalmiya that as a selection committee chairman and senior, Vishy should talk to him. That makes it easier also. However, Vishy insisted. that I should accompany him.
“At tea time, we approached Kapil in the dressing room. Now, knowing that Vishy was a shy guy and didn’t want to get into any controversy. He wasn’t a forthright guy, who would tell you that you were doing something wrong on your face. He would go round and round while talking to someone. So, I took the initiative.”
Gaekwad was candid in his conversation to Kapil.
“I told Kapil: ‘Kaps, we need to talk to you.’ I told him: ‘The selectors feel that you need to quit now, and you also know it. We will give you a farewell game, as per your choice, but now you’ve to call it a day. Kapil reacted very nicely. He said: ‘Thank you very much. I really appreciate what you told me.’ One has to do this kind of a thing at times, which I did,” revealed the 69-year-old.
Gaekwad was speaking at a function by Ageas Federal Life Insurance where he and former India pacer Umesh Kulkarni were felicitated by ex-India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar and ex-India seamer Karsan Ghavri at at Lokmanya Seva Sangh, in Vileparle on Saturday evening. Both were gifted cheques worth Rs 50,000 each. The function was moderated by veteran journalist Dwarkanath Sanzgiri.
Dodgy phone call
Gaekwad also recalled the time when, as the coach of the Indian team, he tackled a match-fixing threat from a bookie just before the final of the Nidahas Cup in Sri Lanka in July 1998.
“At 10:30 pm in the night, I received a call in my room. The caller said: ‘You are losing the match tomorrow.’ When I asked the caller about his identity, he said he was from Mumbai. ‘Don’t bother about my name. Everything is fixed,’ he said. Just to have some ‘fun’, I said: ‘Come over, we’ll fix the match in an even better way!”
Of course, Gaekwad informed the senior players in his side about that ‘dodgy’ phone call the previous night.
“The next day, in the team meeting, I discussed that call with the seniors in the team, skipper Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. ‘Why are you thinking about all these things. We’re winning this final. Don’t listen to or believe all this,’ Azhar told me.
“I told the players: ‘It could be a hoax call also. We don’t have to believe it, but we’ve to be careful. We took our own precautions, and I was very careful,” he revealed.
Ultimately, India beat Sri Lanka by six runs to win the tournament.