Mumbai: Legendary Sunil Gavaskar on Monday said India will rise as a ‘sporting country’ in the next 10-15 years, while lauding historic achievements of javelin sensation Neeraj Chopra, chess prodigy R Praggnanandhaa and badminton star HS Prannoy.
Chopra on Sunday became the first-ever Indian to win a gold medal at the World Athletics Championships, while Praggnanandhaa last week created history by reaching the World Cup final at 18 years.
Prannoy defeated the world No 1 Viktor Axelsen en route to winning a World Championships bronze.
“Earlier, you would see only a few sports would be talked about, media coverage would only be for those,” the Indian cricket icon told the media here after he was revealed as the principal advisor of the Midwicket Stories.
“Now all sports have got an outlet and exposure and because of the other sports, we are getting to see the (emergence of) stars.” The Little Master was brimming with joy as he witnessed Chopra’s triumphant moment of becoming a world champion in Budapest.
“I remember when he (Neeraj Chopra) had won the Tokyo Olympics gold, the India-England series was going on…
“I was watching from England, and I was prompted to sing a song ‘Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle…’ Yesterday, I experienced the same feeling,” he said.
“We had seen Neeraj two years earlier when he won the gold medal in the Olympics. Last year he won a silver medal, but for him it was important to win the gold medal and with a long throw he did it,” Gavaskar said.
“On the other hand, in badminton Worlds, Prannoy reached the semifinals and he defeated Viktor Axelsen. If you see, with the exposure that Indian sportspersons are getting…
“If you think about America and Australia as sporting countries, I feel that in 10-15 years’ time, India will also be called a sporting country,” he added.
The former India captain said Chopra’s historic achievements will inspire others to take up javelin.
“It inspires other (athletes),” he said. “You would have seen that in this World Championship it was not just Neeraj, we had three throwers in the final.
“When one athlete does well it gives encouragement to others to take up the sport as well. It was a joyous moment,” he added.
Gavaskar also backed Praggnanandhaa to win many accolades in his fledgling career.
“Praggnanandhaa finished as the runner-up. He is just 18, going forward he can win many titles in the future,” Gavaskar said.
‘Don’t underestimate Sri Lanka in Asia Cup’
The former India captain also spoke about cricket and said Sri Lanka should not be forgotten amid the talk of India-Pakistan rivalry in the Asia Cup.
“In the Asia Cup, we are talking about India-Pakistan rivalry… But don’t forget Sri Lanka are also there, and they have been winning the Asia Cup. The rivalry between these three countries is always something special,” he said.
He further refused to pick his favourites for the World Cup semifinals saying he is only bothered about India’s performances. “I am only interested about India, I am not bothered about the others making it to the semifinals,” he said.
On the query of managing workloads of the Indian cricketers, Gavaskar said it will be crucial to rest players who have niggles.
“Every individual knows and understands his body the best. The physiotherapist also know. Players know where they have a niggle and where their body is failing.
“It is necessary to rest that player because if you do not rest him for three-four days at that point in time, then that injury may aggravate,” he concluded.