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RAJEEV KHANNA | 7 SEPTEMBER, 2015

This Tea Vendor Is The Cricket Encyclopedia Of Nainital


The beauty of mofussil India is the unknown people who are institutions in themselves. These are the small town heroes whom everyone knows and loves at the local level. They are known to possess a quality that places them at a pedestal.

One such personality resides in the Lake City of Nainital. The man with a permanent grin, a cool manner and a henna-dyed hair is Gauri Datt Pande but he only responds to the name Gavaskar.

A roadside tea vendor who has a small stall on the Mall Road, he is known across Nainital and the adjoining villages for dishing out free knowledge of cricket alongside the steaming cups of tea.

Name any epic cricket match and he comes up with details of top scorers, wicket and catch takers apart from those who committed blunders on the field. He was a local cricket icon for the decade between mid seventies and mid eighties. He stands out an as encyclopedia on the game.

How he got Gavaskar as his nickname is another interesting story. “I was lean and almost his height. I wore a white cap just like he did and had an incredible knowledge of cricket,” he told this reporter while adding that things have come to a pass that even his mother calls him “my Gavaskar”.

Cricket has been his passion since childhood. Despite having studied only till class eight in the vernacular medium, he had picked up the colonial language to the extent that he could always understand match commentaries.

His transistor was a prized possession that drew crowds to listen to commentaries.

One can ask him about the nitty-gritty of cricket tests since 1970 and he can come up with the minutest of details. He can lay down the batting order, the runs scored by key players and even the radio commentators for the day.

Unfamiliar with the geography of the world, he can tell the various time zones of the cricketing nations. He also has an impeccable knowledge of the cricket stadiums across the globe.

Disillusioned by the frequent match fixing scandals that have hit the gentleman’s game, he still basks in the glory of the olden days.

“I am a great fan of the West Indian team. Nobody has been able to match the magic weaved by the likes of Vivian Richards, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Malcom Marshall,” he said.

The town still remembers the day when Gavaskar had served free tea to the people when the West Indian team had won a historic match.

He adores Sunil Gavaskar for facing the might of West Indian and Australian pace batteries without a helmet.

Despite not being a cricket buff, this reporter had his knowledge of the game enhanced several folds over the steaming cups of tea served by Gavaskar while being posted in Nainital for an English Daily. A discussion on the game cannot be over for this reporter without a mention of Nainital’s Gavaskar.

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