Former Test umpire Madhav Gothoskar turns 90
Ex-Test umpire Madhav V Gothoskar retains his sharp memory and sense of humour after all these years; backs Decision Review System
Old age hasn't chipped away at Madhav V Gothoskar's wit. Nor has it affected his memory. For, on the eve of his 90th birthday yesterday, memories and anecdotes flowed like a river. The former umpire remembers his first Test assignment as if it was yesterday. Tony Lewis's Marylebone Cricket Club (England toured under the MCC banner until 1976-77) visited India to clash with Ajit Wadekar's World No. 1 side in 1972-73 when Gothoskar officiated in the Kanpur and Mumbai Tests of the series.
It was during this rubber that some members of the England team were fooled into believing that Gothoskar was Sunil Gavaskar's uncle. "I remember Lewis and Mike Denness asking me in all seriousness whether I was related to Gavaskar. I asked them, just because Buller [former umpire Syd] rhymed with Keith Miller, does it mean they are related?" Gothoskar remarked with a chuckle.
Badminton player too
The Shivaji Park resident's abilities stretched beyond cricket umpiring, a sphere he entered after being a fast bowler. Gothoskar excelled in badminton and got picked for the Junior Nationals in 1946. He is also a good tabla player. He umpired in 14 Tests across 10 years and probably none was more tense than the 1979-80 India v Pakistan game in Bangalore, where the rivalry resumed on Indian soil after 19 years.
Zaheer Abbas was expected to torment India just as he did during the previous series in Pakistan, but Gothoskar adjudged him stumped for 40. The run machine looked unhappy, but when he saw the images of his dismissal in the newspapers, he was convinced that the right call had been made. The same Zaheer argued with Gothoskar in 1983 when he believed he could take his team off after the completion of 14 mandatory overs with Gavaskar poised to get his 28th Test hundred. Ultimately, the Pakistanis returned after being convinced that unlike in England, teams have to complete the 20 mandatory overs. Gavaskar duly reached his century.
Interestingly, yesterday was 35 years for Gavaskar's 29th century at New Delhi, where Gothoskar officiated. "It was a very fine knock — full of square cuts, pulls and hooks against a fearsome West Indies attack," Gothoskar recalled. Next for him was the fourth Test in Mumbai, where he declared Desmond Haynes handled the ball. The opener was unhappy, but he wasn't aware of the rules.
Gothoskar counts himself very fortunate to have witnessed 23 Test centuries from his umpiring position, five of those by Gavaskar. On the personal front, he is grateful for the support his wife Leela provided during his umpiring years when she had to look after their sons, Bhushan and Hursh. He enjoys watching cricket on TV and is a supporter of technology. "I welcome the DRS because with so much noise at the ground, the umpire, at times, cannot hear snicks. However, I am sad to find that batsmen don't walk anymore. The other day an Indian batsman chose to use DRS when it was clear he had edged the ball. Even my wife was surprised because she too heard the sound. However, I would like to see umpires doing the match referee's job," said Gothoskar.
An appeal to generous BCCI
Save a bypass surgery, Gothoskar has enjoyed good health. He is delighted that the BCCI is providing a monthly pension of R22,500. "It is a very fine gesture and it is particularly useful to those umpires who worked at private firms from whom they did not get Provident Fund and gratuity. However, the Board should think of rewarding their ex-Test umpires with one-time payments like they have done for their players," said Gothoskar. Apart from umpiring at all levels in the city, he has been part of important umpiring committees and has conducted umpiring exams. As Gothoskar ('Gotya' to friends) enters the 90s, he looks good to complete a century. And he won't be nervous!
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