Tendulkar finds new admirer in Grenada PM

Published: Friday, July 28, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:Then captain of the national team, a scholarship lured him to swap bat for book but Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell remains loyal to his first love and his list of cricket greats includes Little Champion Sachin Tendulkar.

In an interview with UNI here last night, Dr Mitchell -- also Chairman of the CARICOM Prime Minister's Sub-Committee on Cricket -- revealed he is an ardent Tendulkar fan with a disliking for the usual Tendulkar-Brian Lara comparison.

''Tendulkar, without an iota of doubt, ranks among the all-time greats. I just like him. He is such an exciting player. A great player's hallmark is whatever be the situation, he comes and starts dictating terms and that's what Tendulkar has done so often,'' he said.

He, however, steers clear of the Lara vs Tendulkar debate and insists that it is impossible to compare the two batting maestros.

''There can't be comparison between them. Both are great players and the difference is while one is right-hander, the other is a southpaw.'' Dr Mitchell also has high respect for the older Little Master, Sunil Gavaskar.

''Of course we remember him. How can you forget his 1970-71 debut? I tell you, he was the most difficult batsman to bowl to,'' he said of the legendary opener.

A teammate of Charlie Griffith, best remembered for cracking Nari Contractor's skull in the 1960-61 tour, Dr Mitchell was member of the Grenada national team from 1964-66 and became captain in 1973, leading Combined Windward and Leeward Youth team in between.

''I was no 'Grenada Grenade', like you call Tendulkar, the 'Bombay Bomber'. I was an off-spinner who could bat at number six.

Griffith was my teammate and Everton Weeks, one of the three Ws, was the team manager. But then I got a scholarship and I had to make a choice. I thought cricket won't serve me after I stop playing but a degree would help me in my career.

''Coming off a poor family, I could not have afforded the cost of the study. So I left cricket and did my Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Chemistry before doing my Master's and Doctorate in Mathematics and Statistics from Howard University,'' he reminisced.

Asked if he regrets his choice, Dr Mitchell said, ''Not really.

At 59, I still play cricket. In fact I initiated the Prime Minister Cricket Series and lead my team.'' He, in fact, remembers playing a match with Kapil's Devils after the Indian team had won the 1983 World Cup.

''The match was played in Washington and I remember Kapil (Dev), (Ravi) Shastri and that clean shaven wicketkeeper (Syed Kirmani),'' he recalled.

And his love for the game took him to St Kitt's where Rahul Dravid's Team India played Lara's lads.

Irked with the state of affairs in West Indies cricket, Dr Mitchell has his hopes pinned on captain Lara, who, according to him, has turned the team into a fighting unit.

''Brian has been an outstanding cricketer, a true great. He is in the twilight of his career and he wants to leave a legacy. Under him, the side has shown signs of improvement. It's different from what it was two years ago. These guys are lot more willing to fight.

We in the West Indies would appreciate them even if they lose after fighting till the end.

Dr Mitchell described the contract dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board and the Players' Association an ugly controversy and said the row needs to be settled at the earliest to prevent any long-term damage to Caribbean cricket.

''The contract row was a huge setback for us. It was an ugly controversy and I offered myself to negotiate the dispute. We need to solve it at the earliest because we have to nurture the talents to maintain our standard. There are so many distractions, we have to guide the youngsters. This has been plaguing us for long and the crisis you have no is the natural fallout of our failure to nurture talent in the Caribbean,'' he added.

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