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Sunil Gavaskar
 

 

“It was Gavaskar, the real master just like a wall, we couldn't out Gavaskar at all, not at all; you know the West Indies couldn't out Gavaskar at all” 

(Lord Relator - in the famous calypso composed on Sunny)

For a man of his height and stature to stand up brave against the fearsome four and pile up runs after runs is a feat in itself. The number of centuries he hit off the best pace quartet is proof of the man’s caliber. There was a time when international teams did not want to tour India as they thought the matches were one sided. They had scoreboards to prove that. 0 for 4, 58 all out, India all out twice in a single day? All a fast bowler had to do was take a long run up and Indian batsmen would start inching towards square leg umpire. These were the opinions of others about Indian cricketers. Critics didn't want India to be given 5 days Test matches. So much so that Mr. Godfrey Evans, ex England wicket keeper wanted spectators to be charged fewer amounts for the matches against India. Sunil Gavaskar single handedly changed all that. He was gutsy, brave and a master in his own right and he was a player who was ready to take on the world and try to match and even outperform their best.

He was the first cricketer to make 10, 000 runs and his record of 34 test centuries still stands untouched, and he was a lock for sports betting

The fact that Sunny went on to score 10,000 runs is a tribute to the man’s enormous talent. His amazing concentration was the key to his success. The zest in him to succeed against any opposition was commendable. The belief in his ability, that he was better than any opposition, was what got him to create records, which Indians at one stage only dreamt of. His record is such that he must remain one of the all-time greats.

Unlike other Indian batsmen, he played pace with relative ease: he could hook if he wanted to, but more often he would leave the bouncer alone and watch it sail by. His defense was well organized, and he was a very intelligent batsman who performed well under pressure. Indeed he has played some of his best innings under intense pressure.

Gavaskar's 221 at the Oval in 1979 were one of the best innings ever played by any batsman, particularly bearing in mind the important fact that India started their second innings in the seemingly impossible position of needing 438 runs in 500 minutes to win. Gavaskar was by far the best batsman of either side in the series - and England had Boycott, Gooch and Gower. His technique was infallible and his concentration level was unbelievably high. He was a great back-foot player. A perfectionist, very correct and compact, typically in the English mould.

Sunny is a very proud Indian. He wore the Indian colors on his chest with pride and aplomb -- a man who was unruffled in testing times. Gavaskar, like Bradman, was very much a public figure, winning the highest of national and state awards. But for all that, he is easily accessible, though he doesn't suffer fools gladly. He has the charm and the ability to disarm his critics and win friends with witticism and on tours abroad, one had to watch out for the practical jokes played or inspired by him.

As a captain, Gavaskar looked a born leader, even during his apprenticeship under Wadekar when, from the slips, he showed his understanding and appreciation of good bowling and fielding. He himself was an outstanding performer in the slips, where he finished up with 108 catches. In his early years as captain he was often faulted for his tactics and for his virtual neglect of spin bowlers Shivlal Yadav and Dilip Doshi. But he graduated with honors in the home series of 1981-82 when he made Keith Fletcher, the most professional of captains, look like an amateur.

Gavaskar's batting records are amazing by any standards. Apart from being the first to score 10,000 runs in Tests, he had set the record of 774 runs at an average of 154.8, the highest for any batsman in his debut series. And when comparisons are made with other run-getters, it must be remembered that Gavaskar never had an easy series in his career.

All his runs were made against the quick bowlers of Australia, England, West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand. They were made in the opening position, against "pace like fire". It was only when Chetan Chauhan, and then Kris Srikkanth, came on the scene that he had someone to share "the burden and the heat of the day".

Wisden, while nominating him in its top five for 1980, summed up his batting as follows: He sets his sights high as he builds his innings with meticulous care, limiting himself to the strokes he knows best -- drive through the covers, past the bowlers and between mid on and midwicket. But when he lets his hair down, his range of shots and the power behind them are astonishing.

The shrewdest analysis came from Ted Dexter ascribed Gavaskar's success to his playing the game with the broadest bat in the world. He wrote that Gavaskar had the broadest bat in the game, and defined this metaphysical concept as "the ability of a great batsman to make more use of the width of his bat than the others."

That "broad bat" was very much in evidence when he played what he claims was his best innings -- 54 in the gloom of Old Trafford in 1971. There were two more remarkable innings, his 71 in the second innings of the Christchurch Test of 1976, which contained three hours of disciplined batsmanship which was ended by Howarth's superb catch in the gully; an innings played on a pitch of unpredictable pace and bounce and it saved the day for India. The second knock of 107 in the December Test of 1978 in Calcutta against the West Indies; in the humid bowl of Eden Gardens. Phillip, Clarke and Marshall made the ball swing in the air and seam off the pitch, and Gavaskar played it all with the assurance of a master who knows where his off stump is. There was a time when critics noticed a "corridor of uncertainty" in this area whenever he played bowlers like Lillie and Hadlee, but he had the power and ability to steer himself out of harm's way.

And finally there was the masterly innings of 96 on a turning track against Pakistan in the Bangalore Test of 1987, which dispelled any doubts about his ability to deal with spin on a receptive wicket.

Gavaskar arrived at the highest level just when India needed someone of caliber to sustain the batting. He said farewell to the game with a century in the Biennial Test of August 1987 at that holy of holies, Lord's, to secure the only distinction that had thus far eluded him.

  


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