|Full Name||Sunil Gavaskar|
|Profession||Former Opening batsman and Commentator|
|Date of Birth||10 Jul, 1949|
Comparisons are really no good in sport, especially if it is a comparison between different eras and generations, for there are so many variables that come into play, starting from the quality of the opposition to playing conditions.
The history of Indian cricket has some names that have been scripted in golden letters and Sunil Gavaskar is amongst those names. He has shown his knacks of perfect slip fielding, the greatest opening batsman, wicket-keeper, official and even as a commentator. He has outshone his worth in each and every niche of cricket, especially in Test cricket in which he set numerous records, that took great guts to surpass and some of which are still untouched. The man has always proved a strong base to the national squad during his active career, capable of playing almost any role in the team and hence providing his worth support to bag victory streaks and as commentators say “When he hits, it stays hit”.
Born in erstwhile Bombay on 10th July in 1949, Sunil inherited the love for sports from his parents as his father was a club player and maternal uncle Madhav Mantri was a cricket player. Nicknamed as ‘Sunny’, Gavaskar started showing his batting flair when he was in school. He used to polish his batting skills along with his mother and a houseboy in the mid-afternoon of vacations and also captained his school St. Xavier's High School team on many occasions. In 1966, he was named India's Best Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year and was considered as the most promising cricketer of late 90s which he later proved right. His first-class debut was for Vazir Sultan Colts XI in 1966 and he also played in the Ranji Trophy. He debuted against Karnataka in 1968 season but made a duck which raised several questions upon his selection in the state team and it was also claimed that he has been selected by the name of his uncle. But Gavaskar knew what was needed to prove his worth and in the second match against Rajasthan; he scored 114, making two further consecutive centuries that led him to get a place in the national squad to play against West Indies in 1970. And, hence the legend began.
When you sit down and focus on the matches and series that took place during the 12 month period it strikes you just how broad the talent pool is in international cricket is today.
It was unexpected that Gavaskar had to miss his first Test match against West Indies due to an infected fingernail but he didn’t miss the opportunity to aid his team with 65 and 67 not out in the second match, contributing to the first-ever victory against West Indies. Gavaskar was extremely calmed and aimed in the initial phases that helped him a lot to score overall 774 runs in his debut series, being the first Indian to score four consecutive centuries in a single test series with which he cemented his place in the national squad for the international series ahead. But, what was worth noting was the impact of his performance for the historical victory against West Indies that not only amazed Indians but also impressed West Indians. A Trinidad Calypso singer was so fascinated with his performance that he wrote a song in his honour. A piece of his song is as follows-
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.
Post the auspicious victory of 1970, Gavaskar played in India Tour of England series where his average performance again put a question on his worthiness in the team. But he had a firm belief that he was born to create history which he eventually did in 1974 by bagging 108 runs at 27. Post two years, Gavaskar led the national team for the first time against New Zealand in the Test series, where he scored 116 and 35* that aided the team to bag an eight-wicket victory in the first Test match against New Zealand and concluded his series of the year against West Indies with 390 runs at 55.71. Until then, Gavaskar didn’t open his drawer for centuries on home soil but got the opportunity in 1976. That year, he scored eight Test centuries; three against New Zealand and five against England in the first and last Tests of the season and became the first Indian to score 1000 Test runs in a calendar year.
The year 1978 brought another challenge to the “Little Master” when he faced Pakistan’s spearhead, Imran Khan during India Tour of Pakistan. But, Gavaskar’s brilliant batting techniques helped him recording two centuries in one Test on two occasions and concluding the series with 447 runs at 89.40, however losing. Under his captaincy in the late 1970s and 1980s, he led India to nine victories.
In 1979, Gavaskar flaunted his calibre in batting by scoring 221 at Oval while touring to England and scored his highest Test score of 236 not-out against West Indies in the sixth Test of 1983 series. With his sheer ability to deeply understand the playing strategies, Gavaskar excelled in other on-field roles such as fielding by taking 22 ODI catches amongst which the best ones were the 4 catches that he took against Pakistan at Sharjah in 1985. The man has successfully aided the Indian squad at World Cups of 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1987 with his brilliant batting techniques especially the “late-flicks”. With his significant contribution in the team, India had the opportunity to uplift its stature of playing at ODIs and Tests at International level and that too facing giant teams especially West Indies and England and won the 1983 World Cup. With a stack of 19 World Cup matches in which he scored 561 runs, played in 125 Tests amongst which he captained in 47 occasions Gavaskar has undoubtedly proved his worth in the national squad. He has been regarded as the master of short-pitch bowling. In the words of a prominent bowler of Pakistan’s national squad Imran Khan, he is "the most compact batsman I've bowled to". Post his retirement from the cricket pitch, Gavaskar decided not to be detached with his soul sport and began his journey with some significant new roles. He started his career in commentary and also aided the Indian cricket fraternity as an ICC official.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest cricketers of the national squad of India, Gavaskar has outshone his brilliance in every role he donned whether it is batting, bowling, fielding, as a referee of one Test and five ODI matches, an efficient commentator or a columnist. The Indian cricket history has been flourished with his immense efforts both on and off-pitch. Before bidding farewell to his playing career, Gavaskar did very well with his bat to aid the national squad with 352 runs at 117.33 during India tour of Australia in 1985, home Test series of 1986 that he ended with 205 runs at 51.66, and his final Test century of 176 in the first Test against Sri Lanka. Although focusing more on technical correctness, he never suited for the shorter formats of the game but he successfully created records on the pitch some of which are still a hard nut to crack.
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