Indian batting legend Sunil Gavaskar, who is in South Africa as a commentator in the Freedom Series recently revealed an interaction with the Late Nelson Mandela as a fan-boy moment which left him completely floored and in awe of the former South African prime minister.
At an event organised in Johannesburg, Gavaskar narrated the incident when he met Mandela in the year 1991 (the year when the two South African boards were unified). When he first saw Mandela, the batting legend realised that this was a special moment which could not have been let gone by. After an official dinner at the event, he approached Mandela, requesting the great man for an autograph but was instead presented a souvenir to remember and cherish for years.
“He went back in, and returned with a pair of boxing gloves. He told me that those gloves were given to him by Muhammad Ali,” Gavaskar, a television commentator then as he is now on the current tour, recently told Mid-Day. “I was thinking, what better gift could there be? A pair of gloves worn by The Greatest, given to me by Mandela. But then, once he thought about it, Mandela said it wouldn’t be right to give those away, especially as he was such a boxing aficionado.”
Once again, Mandela walked back in and returned with a book, titled Theory of the Moral Life, written by John Dewey, the American philosopher and father of the school of Pragmatism, who lived from 1859 to 1952. As if the book wasn’t a big present in itself, it was when Gavaskar flipped open the first page is when he realized the true value of the present.
“To Sunil, to a great friend whose performance has been a source of inspiration to us all,” Mandela wrote, signing off. Gavaskar, a student of life, not just cricket, knows just how big an honour it is to be spoken of in these terms by one of the most revered men of the modern era.
Ever since 1991, the the India-South Africa Test clashes have been named as the ‘Freedom Series’, with the winner eventually being awarded with the Mahatma Gandhi-Nelson Mandela Trophy. Along with former Aussie captain Allan Border, Sunil Gavaskar also has a series named after him – The Border Gavaskar Trophy, played between Indian and Australia.