Gautam Gavankar was born and brought up in a small town Sawantwadi on the Maharashtra Goa border. I completed my schooling in vernacular medium (Marathi) and was a merit holder student in SSC Boards. After pursuing higher secondary schooling in the science stream and harbouring ambitions of a career in medicine, I landed up in Government Law College, Mumbai for a 5-year law course in 2005. He passed out in 2010 with a BLS.LLB. degree with a college rank, started my law career with a tier 1 corporate law firm as a campus recruit and followed that stint as an in-house consultant with a reputed media group and practised in the Bombay High Court as an independent advocate for 5 years.
Pursued cricket umpiring as a hobby from the year 2007-08, only to be fortunate to take it up professionally as a BCCI empanelled umpire in 2018. To date, he has umpired in more than 400 matches that include BCCI First Class, age group as well as womens’ matches including a few televised matches.
He also engages in the law profession as an advisor/consultant.
Q. Hello, it’s a pleasure to have you with us! Could you tell us a little about yourself and why you initially wanted to pursue law as a career?
The admission to law degree happened by an accident or rather as a last resort. For some strange reasons or perhaps being misled by my academic success till that point, I harboured ambitions of pursuing a career in medicine. But the requisite dedication, hard work and consequently grades were wanting and I could manage to secure admissions to the BLS course than the MBBS that I aimed for. Not having any contingency plan in place, I applied for a law course at Government Law College, Mumbai and just about made in the last list of candidates they published. So, here I was from not even having an idea about National Law Schools or Law Entrance Exams till a month ago to a law student in a reputed institute by a chance.
Q. Could you tell us a little bit about your journey with cricket, from playing in your childhood through law school and then finally becoming an umpire?
Growing up in a cricket fanatic society in general and family in particular, it was natural that I picked up a bat and ball in my backyard. The interest grew as I played some competitive cricket to lead my school, college and district team along the way. I represented my law college too in intra-University tournaments. However, again the talent and hard work required to make it as a professional sportsman far outweighed my undying passion and love for the sport. The academic success that kept coming along made it an easier choice to pick studies over the competitive sport in a long run. Nevertheless, I wanted to stay in touch with the game and thus, registered for a cricket umpire’s course cum exams with Mumbai Cricket Association in 2007-08 during my 3rd year of law school.
Q. Can you tell us about the types of activities you did at law school? What extra-curricular and co-curricular activities did you take part in?
I was a quintessential backbencher. Born and brought up in a small town Sawantwadi in southern Konkan, I struggled a bit at cultural acclimatisation in a South Mumbai college. So participation in co-curricular activities was minuscule. I was not part of any college committees nor I could muster enough confidence than to participate in moot courts or similar activities. But I played a lot of college and club cricket in that period knowing that it may not be possible once professional life gets over me post-college. From my 4th year of college onwards, I was already officiating as an umpire in local cricket matches under the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Cricket Association.
Q. We know that you had previously worked as an advocate for a news portal and a firm prior to becoming a full-time cricket umpire. What was that experience like?
Despite not contributing much to Co-curricular activities, I managed to score well at all law exams and managed a rank on most occasions including the final year. That opened the opportunity for campus recruitment with a corporate law firm. As much I am grateful to them for offering me an opportunity, during my stint of about a year, I realised my disinclination towards largely a desk job, long nights and general fatigue that the work culture brought in. This prompted me to take a plunge as an independent advocate in Bombay High Court. During this stint, I also worked as a retainer in-house consultant to a reputed media group to keep the finances going. The shift from a fullfledged corporate culture to comparatively relaxed routine to a newbie advocate, I was left with good amount of time to identify and pursue what I liked. So cricket umpiring which had left on hiatus for the past couple of years again came to the fore.
Q. What led you to pursue a career as a cricket umpire by simultaneously serving as an advocate at Bombay High Court and balancing the very demanding careers? How were you able to manage the same?
After settling in independent practice within a couple of years, I realised that as much I liked playing around with laws, arguing matters and dealing with a variety of clientele, the mundane routines of waiting for the matter to be listed, procedural and departmental compliances etc. were taking away much of the thrill and joy from the practice. This is where the weekend doses of cricket umpiring used to come in handy in propelling myself into the rigours of next week. Cricket was that stressbuster that helped to get over the early jitters of independent practice and subsequently to deal with work pressures and responsibility. When umpiring started as a profession with being empanelled with BCCI in the year 2018, juggling both these callings became a task. The BCCI match duties meant I travelled the length and breadth of the country every passing week and practically living out of suitcases. That though exciting and enjoyable in itself, did come as a handicap to the law practice. This is when I realised that if I want to pursue my cricketing passion as a profession, I may have to realign and scale down my goals in the legal profession. It was a conscious yet difficult decision but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Q. Were there any unexpected skills that you brought in from your experience as a lawyer into your career as a Cricket Umpire? Would you consider your legal experience to be an asset for you now?
Indeed. Reading and practising law and harmoniously interpreting it gives you an analytical, logical and commonsensical approach towards resolving conflicts. That is exactly what an umpire has to do in a cricket match while managing 22 players with different personalities and tempers and still making a correct decision. The common aspect of both professions is you have to assess the facts to arrive at a well-deduced inference and then confidently trying to sell that inference to the intended parties. So, I would be grateful for the experiences in the law profession that shaped my personality, which in turn comes handy at effective match management and decision-making on the field of play.
Q. Most of our readers are either law students or fresh law graduates, what are your parting thoughts for them?
I believe that law is a profession that tests your grit and patience to take off but post that the rewards on most occasions are directly proportional to the skill you acquire and the efforts you put. But this success too can get addictive and place you in a vicious circle where you run more than you intended when you began. this may result in physical as well as mental fatigue and burnout. that is why you need something to look forward to as a stressbuster. It is important to pursue a hobby or interest that rejuvenates you. It is easy to be carried away under peer pressure and join the rat race only to realise that your heart lied somewhere else. So while you are studying your law books or carving out space for yourself in this noble profession, don’t forget to look around, listen to your heart once a while and seek happiness than proverbial success.
Find out more about Gautam Gavankar –
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/yashodhan-gautam-gavankar-599a7714/?originalSubdomain=in
- Twitter – https://twitter.com/gautam_gavankar?lang=en
Disclaimer – All views and opinions expressed in this interview are personal and belong solely to the interviewee(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the LAABh Foundation or the individuals and institutions associated with the LAABh Foundation.