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  • I found my first hero when I was nine. That man was Sunil Gavaskar, or Sunny - a professional cricketer for India. How to describe him to those who do not know of him? Beckenbauer perhaps for football fans; Joe Montana or Walter Payton for American Football; Alain Prost for F1; Nick Faldo in golf. Not the flashiest, for Sunny had his Cruyff, his Senna and his Ballesteros rivalling him but Gavaskar's was the technique, the achievements and the solidity. While he remained batting and not out, a billion people stayed awake knowing that India still had a chance to win or draw.

    If the link works, watch him - all five foot six of him - take on the might of the West Indian fast bowlers; all at more than 140 kph / 90 mph. Some said I looked like him and I never disagreed!!

    Roll on past his retirement and on to 1999 when I am 31. A friend and I chase Gavaskar all around the Trent Bridge cricket ground in Nottingham. Up to the Sky commentary box, down to the radio Test Match Special booth, to where he is having lunch or tea - 'Sunny, an autograph please!', we say in our minds. 'Mr Gavaskar, could you spare us a few moments,' we finally get to say to him.

    The Man says, 'Sorry to have kept you waiting.' This is Sunil Gavaskar - saying sorry - to us!? He gives us an autograph and then poses for a photo. His mobile rings. Without looking, he turns it off, apologises once more and waits for the flash.

    There are so many stories of heroes in real life not matching up to the standards that we build up for them. On this occasion though, Sunny grew in stature. Thank you Mr Gavaskar, for all that you meant to me without you knowing - as you did to so many others. While you did your job, you enriched our lives and for that I shall be ever grateful.
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