February 16, 2014

Gavaskar's stunning entrance

For Indian cricket fans of a certain vintage, the Caribbean summer of 1971 was the most glorious of all
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Sunil Gavaskar: unflappable, and technically unmatched
Sunil Gavaskar: unflappable, and technically unmatched © Getty Images

Nothing can equal the thrill of listening to the unprecedented batting exploits of Sunil Gavaskar as he amassed 774 runs in the four Tests he played in the West Indies in 1971 - if, like me, you happen to be someone who watched cricket through the 1960s and '70s.

We were by then used to being let down time and again by Indian batsmen who often flattered to deceive. The batting had revolved largely around the courage of the captain, MAK Pataudi, and flashes of brilliance from the supporting cast, which included the likes of Ajit Wadekar and the mercurial Salim Durani, with Chandu Borde no longer around to lend it a semblance of stability. Dilip Sardesai had promised much but his best was yet to come.

Happily the first Test of that Caribbean tour at Sabina Park saw Sardesai at his best as he hit a powerful 212, with the next-best score coming from Eknath Solkar, who made 61 in a total of 387. India enforced the follow-on with a first-innings lead of 170 to the complete puzzlement of the rival captain, Garry Sobers. Rain had reduced the match to four days and you only needed a lead of 150 in a game of that duration to put the opposition in a second time. With Rohan Kanhai (158 not out) and Sobers (93) in roaring form, the match was comfortably drawn, but India had gained the confidence that they could challenge this West Indies side in a post-Wes Hall-Charlie Griffith transition period.

Gavaskar, the young prodigy from Bombay University, made his debut in the second Test, in Port-of-Spain, and straight away played a winning hand in India's first Test victory in the Caribbean. West Indies had been bundled out for 214 in the first innings by some superlative spin bowling from Erapalli Prasanna (4 for 54) and Bishan Bedi (3 for 46), with support from medium pacer Syed Abid Ali, who got rid of the dangerous left-handers Roy Fredericks and Clive Lloyd.

Opening the innings with Ashok Mankad (44), Gavaskar made an impressive 65. With Sardesai (112) continuing his great form, and Solkar contributing a valuable 55, India took a lead of 138, and then went on to dismiss the opponents for 261. This time S Venkataraghavan was the star bowler, with 5 for 95, while Durani, who is said to have snatched the ball from the captain, Wadekar, got rid of Lloyd and Sobers, and then nonchalantly returned the ball, as if to say his job was done. Gavaskar made light of the easy target of 124, remaining unbeaten on a fluent 67.

GR Viswanath was the favourite batsman for many of my generation, but most of us would reluctantly concede that Gavaskar was the master batsman without equal

Promising as the start to Gavaskar's Test career was, little did any of us know what was in store. The Little Master made scores of 116 and 64 not out, 1 and 117 not out, and 124 and 220 in the next three Tests, breaking all manner of records in the process. India managed to win the series on the strength of their Trinidad victory in the second Test, as each of the other games ended in a draw. A champion batsman had arrived on the Indian Test horizon, the likes of whom we had never seen before, certainly not since the days of Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, Rusi Modi, Polly Umrigar and Vijay Manjrekar.

Though his contribution to India's triumph in England the same summer was not significant, Gavaskar impressed the experts with the purity of his technique. Back in India, he did not make too many runs in the series against Tony Lewis' Englishmen, or even in the unofficial Tests in Sri Lanka that followed. On the disastrous tour of England in 1974 (the infamous "Summer of 42") he made a grand start with 101 and 58 in the first Test, but faded away thereafter.

He missed most of the 1974-75 home series under Pataudi against West Indies with an injury he sustained in the first Test in Bangalore. Coming back for the final Test in Bombay, he made a fluent 86. His gradual return to his rightful place in the pantheon of great modern Test openers began during the 1975-76 New Zealand tour and grew to full bloom in the West Indies with his scores of 156 and 102 in the two back-to-back Tests in Port-of-Spain. India's unlikely triumph in the third Test, chasing a target of 403, however, provoked the launch of a four-pronged pace attack by Lloyd, a captain desperate to put West Indies on the top of the cricket world.

While the rest is history in terms of West Indies' subsequent domination of world cricket, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar had more than arrived as arguably the greatest post-war opening batsman in the world.

GR Viswanath was the favourite batsman for many of my generation of cricket lovers in India, and I was no exception, but most of us would reluctantly concede that Gavaskar was the master batsman without equal, for his superb technique, immense powers of concentration, unflappable temperament, and astute cricketing brain. Some of us would go so far as to say that purely as a Test batsman, he was superior to the other Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar. Even if we may struggle to win that argument, we can always boast that we witnessed the birth of the most exciting phase of Indian cricket, thanks to Gavaskar's astonishing batting in 1971.

V Ramnarayan is an author, translator and teacher. He bowled offspin for Hyderabad and South Zone in the 1970s

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nampally on February 17, 2014, 1:55 GMT

    MY compliments for a great article , Mr. Ramnarayan. In my opinion Sunil was the best batsmen India ever produced. His batting as a 20 year old debutant overseas in WI showed Sunil's genius ! His defence was copybook, his footwork excellent & his temperament majestic. No batsmen in India ever matches Gavaskar. Just like Merchant & Hazare were the architects of the Indian batting, Gavaskar demonstrated the genius of batting. His unmatched 774 in 4 Test matches is abject lesson to many modern Cricketers & journalists who justify the present Indian batting failures due to "inexperience & youth" - at the age of 25+?. I believe a batsman with sound basics + right technique can score against any attack on any pitch. A 20 year old Sunil demonstrated this unequivocally on WI soil against fine bowlers. Despite his genius, Gavaskar's lifetime earnings thru' cricket were< Dhoni's earnings in ONE IPL season -Tragedy of being born in the wrong Era. Hats off- I long to see Gavaskar's Avatar soon.

  • Nampally on February 21, 2014, 1:50 GMT

    @Raju_Iyer: Please read my comments in the context they were made before making sweeping remarks. If you read my input properly it is about Gavaskar, the Cricketer. The real architects of the Indian Cricket like Merchant, Hazare, Umrigar, ets. were superb Cricketers but barely made a living out of Cricket. They played Cricket for the Love of the game. In fact Budhi Kunderan was so poor that he had to borrow even the WK gloves when he first appeared for India in Tests- a superb WK/Batsmen, died in poverty, abroad. During Gavaskar playing days, the Cricketers were all amateurs- paid pittance when they played in Tests. Today Cricket provides a livelihood to Cricketers hardly above the Club level. I compared to Captain Dhoni's earnings because he is he highest paid Indian Cricketer. Capt. Gavaskar was the Top class batsman in the World at that time! Sign of the Time.

  • Raju_Iyer on February 20, 2014, 4:35 GMT

    @ Nampallly : What has Dhoni's earnings in IPL got anything to do with Gavaskar's genius? Typical of Indian fans, can't stomach other's successes!This article was about the greatness of Sunil Gavaskar the batsman, some of his actions as a captain or even as a player under Venkataraghavan were not ideal, but let none of them detract from the fact that he was the first "Record-kar" before "God" aka Tendul-record-kar arrived...

  • harshthakor on February 19, 2014, 5:36 GMT

    I must state that as a pure match-winner G.R.Vishwanath was ahead who posessed the prowess of a magician.Gavaskar and Vishwanath rolled one could well have comprised the perfect batsmem.Gavaskar was the technician,Vishwanath was the composer.It would have been a great combination of technique and concentration with artistry and creativity.

    I must also state that certain critiques point out that Gavaskar did not make his centuries against the best West Indian pace bowlingas he dominated the weaker attacks of 1970-71 and 1978-79 excluding the likes of Garner,Holding,Roberts and Marshall at his best .Gavaskar also missed the Packer supertests.This is significant.Neverthless Sunny superbly tackled Imran Khan ,Malcolm Marshall and Ian Botham at their peak from 1979-84.His 90 at Ahmedabad on a bad track against West Indies in 1983-84 was sheer mastery..Gavaskar posessed more concentration than any batsmen ever and when batting resembled a buddhist monk meditating.

  • harshthakor on February 19, 2014, 3:55 GMT

    What sometimes went against Sunil was his inability to step the gas and win matches by dominating the bowling.However never forget the pressure he faced and his epic role in saving so many test matches and winning some.His 166 versus Pakistan in 1979-80 at Madras comes to my mid where his marthon knoch won an important game for India.His 221at the Oval in 1979 and 96 at Bangalore in 1987 could well have beeen the best innings ever in a winning 4th innings run chase with a bit of luck.I do not think Tendulkar would have equalled Gavaskar facing the great bowlers Gavaskar did,that too without headgear and opening the batting.

    For the best opening batsmen of all time Gavaskar's best rivals are Jack Hobbs,Len Hutton and Barry Richards.Adding first class cricket Hobbs would rtae as the best opeer of all time and arguably Barry may have edged Suniul in his era.

    I still do not think Bradman may have surpassed Gavaskar facing those phenomenal attacks if you remember the bodyline series.

  • harshthakor on February 19, 2014, 3:48 GMT

    Sunil Gavaskar is arguably the best test match batsmen of all time.I find it hard conceiving any batsmen warding off the great Carribean pace quartet without the aid of a helmet like Gavaskar,let alone opening batsmen.Toady even the likes of Andy Roberst and Gary Sobers rate him above Tenduulkar with Sobers rating him above even Viv Richards ,Lara and Tendulkar.No great btasmen scored so prolifically against truly great pace bowling as Gavaskar who championed opponents like,Andy Roberts,Imran Khan,Ian Botham with the technical precision of a surgeon.His 221 at the Oval in 1979 that morally won the game for India arguably ranks amongst the top 2-3 best in a 2nd innings run chase.His 96 against Pakistan in his final test innings at Bangalore on a broken pitch with the ball turning square is something I do not envisage the likes of even Bradman or Tendulkar playing.Notably Sunny has about 3 innings featured in Wisden's 100 best.Technically he was 2nd to only Len Hutton.

  • YorBanra on February 19, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    Spare a thought for Kenia Jayantilal. Along with Gavaskar, he was picked as one of the debutant openers. His scores in the warm up games leading to the first test were - 33 and 56* (President's XI), 21 (Leeward Is), 59 & 122* (Guyana), 40 & 76 (Barbados) and 65 (Windward Is). Gavaskar's scores were - 82 & 32* (Leeward Is), 125 & 63 (T&T), 0 & 67 (Barbados), 14 & 12 (Windward Is). There was little to chose between them in the warm up games. Indeed Jayantilal was slightly better. He was picked for the first test, made only 5 in the only innings and was not picked again as Wadekar preferred to open with Mankad. Jayantilal wasn't picked for India ever again. With a little encouragement he might have been another Gavaskar. Mr Ramnarayan being from Hyderabad may throw more light in his next article.

  • AH_USA on February 19, 2014, 2:28 GMT

    It is not fair to compare Gavaskar with Viv Richards. They both had completely different styles. Viv was aggressive by nature and was gifted with immense reflexes by the almighty where as Gavaskar was a technically correct batsman whose job was to see off the new ball. I am from Pakistan and I have always been a big fan of Imran Khan and his sense of cricket. In one of his past interviews, Imran rated Gavasker above Sachin in terms of technicality. Sachin never faced Akram or Waqar in their prime primarily because of the political environment between the two countries and therefore, it will not be fair to say that Sachin negotiated the ball well against the two Ws.

  • sk123 on February 18, 2014, 17:47 GMT

    @MaruthuDelft: Yawn .. any more analysis you want to throw at us? I don't know why people have to compare. Gavaskar was a good batsman period! Who cares if Bradman, Sachin or even Richards were better? I think most people miss the point by comparing. Having said that, I believe all of the batsmen I've mentioned above have been great and you can add many more to those - Kallis, Ponting, Hussey, Waugh, Sehwag, Dravid, Sanga, Haydo, Pietersen, Trott etc etc. If they didn't contribute to their teams wins, they wouln't have player for decades.

  • on February 18, 2014, 11:36 GMT

    All those who are criticizing Sunny and comparing him with the likes of Viv mus remember one thing that during those times, India was bereft of quality batsmen and bowlers. India only had Sunny, and a handful of bowlers good enough for Indian conditions only. Sunny didn't just have to score runs, he also had to play the anchoring role, carry his bat till late down the order, all this while facing the quickest of bowlers first up. If Sunny was in WI or Aus team, he would have scored more runs than he did, and more centuries and at a faster pace. No batsmen to score runs around him and no bowlers to defend low scores if he got out trying to score runs at a faster clip

  • Nampally on February 17, 2014, 1:55 GMT

    MY compliments for a great article , Mr. Ramnarayan. In my opinion Sunil was the best batsmen India ever produced. His batting as a 20 year old debutant overseas in WI showed Sunil's genius ! His defence was copybook, his footwork excellent & his temperament majestic. No batsmen in India ever matches Gavaskar. Just like Merchant & Hazare were the architects of the Indian batting, Gavaskar demonstrated the genius of batting. His unmatched 774 in 4 Test matches is abject lesson to many modern Cricketers & journalists who justify the present Indian batting failures due to "inexperience & youth" - at the age of 25+?. I believe a batsman with sound basics + right technique can score against any attack on any pitch. A 20 year old Sunil demonstrated this unequivocally on WI soil against fine bowlers. Despite his genius, Gavaskar's lifetime earnings thru' cricket were< Dhoni's earnings in ONE IPL season -Tragedy of being born in the wrong Era. Hats off- I long to see Gavaskar's Avatar soon.

  • Nampally on February 21, 2014, 1:50 GMT

    @Raju_Iyer: Please read my comments in the context they were made before making sweeping remarks. If you read my input properly it is about Gavaskar, the Cricketer. The real architects of the Indian Cricket like Merchant, Hazare, Umrigar, ets. were superb Cricketers but barely made a living out of Cricket. They played Cricket for the Love of the game. In fact Budhi Kunderan was so poor that he had to borrow even the WK gloves when he first appeared for India in Tests- a superb WK/Batsmen, died in poverty, abroad. During Gavaskar playing days, the Cricketers were all amateurs- paid pittance when they played in Tests. Today Cricket provides a livelihood to Cricketers hardly above the Club level. I compared to Captain Dhoni's earnings because he is he highest paid Indian Cricketer. Capt. Gavaskar was the Top class batsman in the World at that time! Sign of the Time.

  • Raju_Iyer on February 20, 2014, 4:35 GMT

    @ Nampallly : What has Dhoni's earnings in IPL got anything to do with Gavaskar's genius? Typical of Indian fans, can't stomach other's successes!This article was about the greatness of Sunil Gavaskar the batsman, some of his actions as a captain or even as a player under Venkataraghavan were not ideal, but let none of them detract from the fact that he was the first "Record-kar" before "God" aka Tendul-record-kar arrived...

  • harshthakor on February 19, 2014, 5:36 GMT

    I must state that as a pure match-winner G.R.Vishwanath was ahead who posessed the prowess of a magician.Gavaskar and Vishwanath rolled one could well have comprised the perfect batsmem.Gavaskar was the technician,Vishwanath was the composer.It would have been a great combination of technique and concentration with artistry and creativity.

    I must also state that certain critiques point out that Gavaskar did not make his centuries against the best West Indian pace bowlingas he dominated the weaker attacks of 1970-71 and 1978-79 excluding the likes of Garner,Holding,Roberts and Marshall at his best .Gavaskar also missed the Packer supertests.This is significant.Neverthless Sunny superbly tackled Imran Khan ,Malcolm Marshall and Ian Botham at their peak from 1979-84.His 90 at Ahmedabad on a bad track against West Indies in 1983-84 was sheer mastery..Gavaskar posessed more concentration than any batsmen ever and when batting resembled a buddhist monk meditating.

  • harshthakor on February 19, 2014, 3:55 GMT

    What sometimes went against Sunil was his inability to step the gas and win matches by dominating the bowling.However never forget the pressure he faced and his epic role in saving so many test matches and winning some.His 166 versus Pakistan in 1979-80 at Madras comes to my mid where his marthon knoch won an important game for India.His 221at the Oval in 1979 and 96 at Bangalore in 1987 could well have beeen the best innings ever in a winning 4th innings run chase with a bit of luck.I do not think Tendulkar would have equalled Gavaskar facing the great bowlers Gavaskar did,that too without headgear and opening the batting.

    For the best opening batsmen of all time Gavaskar's best rivals are Jack Hobbs,Len Hutton and Barry Richards.Adding first class cricket Hobbs would rtae as the best opeer of all time and arguably Barry may have edged Suniul in his era.

    I still do not think Bradman may have surpassed Gavaskar facing those phenomenal attacks if you remember the bodyline series.

  • harshthakor on February 19, 2014, 3:48 GMT

    Sunil Gavaskar is arguably the best test match batsmen of all time.I find it hard conceiving any batsmen warding off the great Carribean pace quartet without the aid of a helmet like Gavaskar,let alone opening batsmen.Toady even the likes of Andy Roberst and Gary Sobers rate him above Tenduulkar with Sobers rating him above even Viv Richards ,Lara and Tendulkar.No great btasmen scored so prolifically against truly great pace bowling as Gavaskar who championed opponents like,Andy Roberts,Imran Khan,Ian Botham with the technical precision of a surgeon.His 221 at the Oval in 1979 that morally won the game for India arguably ranks amongst the top 2-3 best in a 2nd innings run chase.His 96 against Pakistan in his final test innings at Bangalore on a broken pitch with the ball turning square is something I do not envisage the likes of even Bradman or Tendulkar playing.Notably Sunny has about 3 innings featured in Wisden's 100 best.Technically he was 2nd to only Len Hutton.

  • YorBanra on February 19, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    Spare a thought for Kenia Jayantilal. Along with Gavaskar, he was picked as one of the debutant openers. His scores in the warm up games leading to the first test were - 33 and 56* (President's XI), 21 (Leeward Is), 59 & 122* (Guyana), 40 & 76 (Barbados) and 65 (Windward Is). Gavaskar's scores were - 82 & 32* (Leeward Is), 125 & 63 (T&T), 0 & 67 (Barbados), 14 & 12 (Windward Is). There was little to chose between them in the warm up games. Indeed Jayantilal was slightly better. He was picked for the first test, made only 5 in the only innings and was not picked again as Wadekar preferred to open with Mankad. Jayantilal wasn't picked for India ever again. With a little encouragement he might have been another Gavaskar. Mr Ramnarayan being from Hyderabad may throw more light in his next article.

  • AH_USA on February 19, 2014, 2:28 GMT

    It is not fair to compare Gavaskar with Viv Richards. They both had completely different styles. Viv was aggressive by nature and was gifted with immense reflexes by the almighty where as Gavaskar was a technically correct batsman whose job was to see off the new ball. I am from Pakistan and I have always been a big fan of Imran Khan and his sense of cricket. In one of his past interviews, Imran rated Gavasker above Sachin in terms of technicality. Sachin never faced Akram or Waqar in their prime primarily because of the political environment between the two countries and therefore, it will not be fair to say that Sachin negotiated the ball well against the two Ws.

  • sk123 on February 18, 2014, 17:47 GMT

    @MaruthuDelft: Yawn .. any more analysis you want to throw at us? I don't know why people have to compare. Gavaskar was a good batsman period! Who cares if Bradman, Sachin or even Richards were better? I think most people miss the point by comparing. Having said that, I believe all of the batsmen I've mentioned above have been great and you can add many more to those - Kallis, Ponting, Hussey, Waugh, Sehwag, Dravid, Sanga, Haydo, Pietersen, Trott etc etc. If they didn't contribute to their teams wins, they wouln't have player for decades.

  • on February 18, 2014, 11:36 GMT

    All those who are criticizing Sunny and comparing him with the likes of Viv mus remember one thing that during those times, India was bereft of quality batsmen and bowlers. India only had Sunny, and a handful of bowlers good enough for Indian conditions only. Sunny didn't just have to score runs, he also had to play the anchoring role, carry his bat till late down the order, all this while facing the quickest of bowlers first up. If Sunny was in WI or Aus team, he would have scored more runs than he did, and more centuries and at a faster pace. No batsmen to score runs around him and no bowlers to defend low scores if he got out trying to score runs at a faster clip

  • on February 18, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    To me what was amazing about SG battling the WI pacers of that era was, his practice regime. How in the world would he practice against 140-150 K balls before bowling machines were invented? I believe he used to shorten the pitch, practice on concrete with water on it etc. But still in his debut series? Incredible. May be there's stuff for a movie "Bat, Sunny Bat'.

  • NumberXI on February 18, 2014, 5:54 GMT

    @MaruthuDelft - test cricket has changed a lot since the time SMG played it. I suspect you are selectively using a different yardstick to judge a batsman from a different time in test cricket.

  • Kamal22 on February 17, 2014, 22:08 GMT

    @Maruthu, You wrote: "You should have seen how Gavaskar batted. Gavaskar was so insecure against the pacemen so started swinging his bat on either side. Gavaskar made an untypically fast hundred and a ninety in quick succession but never looked confident. Then again in a rain affected encounter he scored a useless double hundred." This for a tour where he according to you failed the test! Well that tour had happened right after the '83 WC upset and Windies were really very UPSET. So much that Jimmy Amarnath-MOM in the final had the entire series figures of 00100.I'm quoting from memory. So the "untypically fast hundred and a ninety in quick succession" AND "useless double hundred", you mentioned deserve a better perspective and a LITTLE MORE RESPECT!

  • remnant on February 17, 2014, 20:30 GMT

    Gavaskar's last innings as a solo effort is still fresh in my memory. That 96 on a treacherous pitch in Bangalore, which was turning square. So dominant was Gavaskar in the 70s and 80s that perhaps one series with WI was postponed as he got injured and the Winidies didn't liek the tour without him. Maybe some writer could shed more light on this here at Cricinfo.

  • on February 17, 2014, 18:16 GMT

    Sunil Gavaskar and even Rahul Dravid are better test batsmen than Sachin. There are 3 reasons why Sunny is better than Sachin-(1) he never wore a helmet while facing the fastest of fast bowlers (2) he faced the new ball- which is always more difficult (3) he did not have the luxury of a Sehwag and a Rahul Dravid completely demoralizing/tiring an attack, before he came on to bat. Rahul Dravid is greater than Sachin in tests because -(1) he won more matches for India (2) he was the one who would neutralize the threat of the new ball before the likes of Sachin made good use of a tired attack. Overall- if you put tests and ODIs together though Sachin is greater for he had an amazing array of shots, plus he could dominate attacks.

  • on February 17, 2014, 17:52 GMT

    Gavaskar is a true legend of the game. He has an amazing record in a very difficult time for batsmen. He scored piles of runs against the best bowlers in the world and broke the myth that Indian batsmen could not play fast bowling. 13 centuries at an average of over 60 against the West Indies of that era, arguably the best team ever, is just incredible. Sunny is easily one of the best batsmen of all-time.

  • on February 17, 2014, 16:40 GMT

    Ram Sir, I was born the year SMG made his debut. Though I followed SMG's later career and all of Sachin's career, In Tests Sunny has to be the best. All the teams had strong bowling attacks and he was the person who gave Indian batting lot of respectability along with Vishy, Jimmy & Vengsarkar. While growing up, Sunny's Defence and Straight Drives were what we wanted to emulate.

  • on February 17, 2014, 14:53 GMT

    Sir Sunil Gavasker is the one of the Legend in the history of Cricket. I loved his playing still and remember him today as well his batting skills. He faced worlds best fast bowlers, Like Denis Lille, Thomsan,Sir Hadle, Imran Khan,Abdul Qadir,Marshal, Roberts,Holding,

  • on February 17, 2014, 12:14 GMT

    We Indians have always been an extremely emotional lot-even irrationally @ times. If we decide to like somebody we will do so no matter what,conversely if we dont,nothing that person does is good enough for us. Best example is the 'love & affection' bestowed on the Nehru-Gandhi family. Similarly Sunny has been a law unto himself & always gone his own way. Sure he wasnt right everytime & like all humans had his foibles. But what that has to do with his claim to greatness is beyond logic. Wasim Akram had the privilege of bowling to SMG & SRT & he had publicly stated that SMG was the tougher opponent. To be able to judge somebody's worth 1 has to hav played the game. The author's credential therefore is impeccable. If I were to judge SMG's greatness I would go by the greatest left arm pacer ever rather than some puerile imbeciles who have commented in this forum....END OF STORY

  • on February 17, 2014, 12:13 GMT

    At last, an article on SMG in the internet era, or should I say, after Sachin era? For those of us who grew up listening to folklore of SMG & his batting, technique, concentration, this is a treasure. In Sachin era, whenever Indian batting was talked about, Sachin was first put above all & then comparison would start. Frankly, one should not compare greats of different generations but then covered pitches, heavy bats, changed rules and most importantly quality of bowling were never neutrally considered when comparing Sunil & Sachin. SMG's humble approach added weight in Sachin's side but frankly, as a pure test batsman & master technician, innings builder, influence on the team (in respective conditions, SMG was far ahead. A fact that many in India accept to but in private due to fear of backlash from large no. of Sachin fans. Thanks to Mr.V Ramnarayan.

  • on February 17, 2014, 11:31 GMT

    Sunil Gavaskar beats Sachin Tendulkar in test cricket. Just look at the bowlers that he faced. A deadly West Indian attack with the rules and regulation as we see today and more because the protection for the batsmen in those days was nothing like today. Having said that, no one can take away anything from Sachin Tendulkar, considering that he carried the weight of Indian Cricket for so long.

  • inhotpursuit on February 17, 2014, 11:02 GMT

    A fine post Mr. Ramnarayan, one that opened a can full of memories of time spent following and playing cricket as a school kid. Some of the very first matches I watched dates to Sunil Gavaskar's end years as a cricketer. Two innings of his I fondly remember- one was his last test innings in 1987 against Pakistan in Bangalore where he scored 96 epic runs, India lost the match by 16 or so runs though. The second one, against much lesser bowling attack of New Zealand, was a '87 world Cup return league match against the Kiwis where he simply marauded their bowlers, in particular Evan Chatfield who was taken for 22 runs in one over (a big feat in those days) and India chased 224 odd runs in less than 40 overs, SG got his 1st ODI century in his last innings. Different Eras bring to the fore newer skill sets, comparison can never be justified.

  • shanks1967 on February 17, 2014, 8:42 GMT

    And for those who talk about one dayers...He was of the previous era who looked down upon one dayers. But after the Pru cup which India won, he changed and adapted himself to the new format. He scored more than 3000 runs overall and he destroyed the NZ attack in 1986 world cup final league match where he scored 100 in 85 balls equalling Clive Lloyd's record. He lead India to World Championship Victory in Australia without losing a single match. And please remember that whenever Sunny and Vishy got out early you can bet your a...that we would be down the tube. One small example is India 100 odd for 1 in Lahore, Sunny out for 42, India all out for 129... Imran takes 6 for 14. I can keep on rattling stats here but for those who do not want to or refuse to take in facts and accept that he was one among the greats of Indian cricket, then GOD BLESS YOU ALL. People like Maruthudelft...

  • shanks1967 on February 17, 2014, 8:34 GMT

    Please use cricinfo statsguru to reconstruct Sunil's encounter against all teams. Take Pakistan, when Imran and Sarfraz were routinely deconstructing India, he scored 111 and 137 in Karachi. He scored consistently against England, please remember 221 against them at Oval in 79 when we nearly pulled off a 438 run chase in 4th innings. Leave alone his debut. When Malcolm Marshall pulled off his bat off his hands with a stunner at Kanpur, he brought back the hook shot at Delhi and got 121 against the same combo including 2 sixes off marshall. He went on and scored 236 not out at Chennai and Dujon took his bat as a souveneiir. You could ask Thommo, Willis, Ian Botham, Holding, Marshall,Imran, Sarfraz, and even Wasim. You can find their quotes. I am sure they knew quality better than some of the arm chair critics or one eyed blind fans of either Sachin or Vishy...

  • on February 17, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    Sri Ramnarayan has played first class cricket with dignity for a number of years. His views are to be respected and given due credence.

  • Cool_Jeeves on February 17, 2014, 5:39 GMT

    Sunny is the best batsman produced by India. He failed only once against the West Indies, averaging 30, in 1982-83. 3 years later, that was the highest average in teh England team, principally because the attack wore a different look because a rejuvenated Garner and Patrick Patterson came into the attack. In the 82-83 series against India, Windies quicks were not at their best, with Garner being dropped with only 7 wickets in 4 tests, and Holding doing little better, both because of being exhausted after a long domestic season in Australia. Roberts was fast medium, which reduced their attack to just Marshall, who was ferociously quick.

    Gavaskar was not in a good frame of mind, having been sacked as captain, and being made to play under a captain 10 years younger to him. However, the rest of the Indian batsmen feasted on easy pitches, with everyone averaging handsomely, and returning with 3 draws in 5 tests, and with 2 scores of more than 400 and one score of 284/3 in those draws.

  • Insightful2013 on February 16, 2014, 19:16 GMT

    Sir, not to diminish Sunil's exploits but Holder, Dowe, Inshan Ali, Boyce, Shillingford etc. weren't really good bowlers as Mr. Shayan points out. Mr. G was good but I don't think he was better than Sachin. I think it could be argued that his skill was a product of his time and in Sachin's era, he may have been been better. Sachin faced Wasim, Waquar, McGrath, Donald etc and produced, and I dare say would have probably succeeded against Marshall, Garner, Walsh, Hadlee,Holding etc. AND he faced Murali, which I consider the greatest test. To address Mr. Baljik, Sir, of all batsmen, maybe KP and Miandad, Viv could probably, have faced the above bowlers and easily succeeded. He was that good! I think batsmen should be judged by assessing if they were capable of facing the Windies quicks especially Marshall and Wasim , Waquar, Hadlee, Murali,Donald. These were bowlers despite prodigious skill, actually thought you out. Mr. Ramnaryan, I don't think Gavaskar, could have managed it.

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 19:05 GMT

    And finally for those who say Viv Richards didn't face his own bowlers and he had a cushion of great batsmen around him should watch videos of what he did in the first tour to Australia after the Kerry Packer era. It was the highest quality and keenest cricket played in the last 5 decades. Lilly, Greg Chappel, Viv Richards and the West India pace quartet were out to prove they were the best in the world. Crowds were massive. England too had a strong team for the triangular ODIs with Botham in full steam. No batting exploits since Bradman's days were a match to the way Viv played in that Australian summer. And although I didn't directly follow I heard that a notable cricketer predicted Viv was going to murder England in 1976 after seeing him whacking his own pacemen operating at full speed in the nets. The point is if you have a strong bowling environment your batsmen have to come through that. You just can't say Ponting would have faultered against McGrath and Warne.

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 17:43 GMT

    I think a cricketers reputation is greatly enhanced by their ability to communicate articulately. Gavaskar besides being intelligent has always been able to say something which stands out and made sense. People see Gavaskar as some batsman higher than what he actually is. Ishant Sharma became a laughing stock after his 'spearhead' quote. People see him as a useless bowler but he actually is better than that. A UK Prime Minister became a comedy piece after referring to himself as a 'Quiet Man'!

  • on February 16, 2014, 16:25 GMT

    Gavaskar is unarguably the best opening batsman from subcontinent along with Hanif. But his average of 60+ against WI is a courtesy of his first tour in which he notched up 774 at 155 with 3 100's & 4 50's. The bowlers he faced were 1. Noriega 2. Sobers 3. Ishan Ali 4. Shillingford 5. Shepherd 6. Holder 7. Dowe & co. None of them is a member of fearsome 4some.

  • J751 on February 16, 2014, 15:44 GMT

    Gavaskar played some epic innings against Pakistan.In 1978-79,his performance was the only bright spot for India in a disastrous campaign.He scored 97 in Lahore followed by twin hundreds in Karachi.His last Test innings was also against Pakistan at Bangalore in 1987.It was a masterly performance and yet India lost again and he narrowly missed a hundred.Among Indian cricketers,he remains my favourite.

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 15:37 GMT

    Cont...I didn't directly follow what Gavaskar did before 1978/79. But I know he scored 4 hundreds in Australia in one tour when Lilly was away with Kerry packer but I think Thommo was playing. And he scored well against Pakistan in Pakistan in I think 1977/78. then apart from his first tour to Windies he may have had more successful tests against them but definitely not against strong Windies sides. On the whole contrary to public belief and stats indicate Gavaskar didn't perform well against good attacks.

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 15:28 GMT

    Cont....Then came the 3rd real test for Gavaskar. A tour to West Indies when their bowlers were the best in the world. Gavaskar failed miserably again. The stats would shoe he scored a century but he did that on the 5th day after rain washed out 3 days of the first 4. Then he failed badly in the WC. Then came his 4th and final test. A strong West Indies touring India. This is where stats lie. You should have seen how Gavaskar batted. Gavaskar was so insecure against the pacemen so started swinging his bat on either side. Gavaskar made an untypically fast hundred and a ninety in quick succession but never looked confident. Then again in a rain affected encounter he scored a useless double hundred. After that tour Gavaskar added many runs to his tally against ordinary teams or in not so keenly contested context. Cont....

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 15:19 GMT

    Gavaskar scored 4 centuries when Alvin Kallichara took his depleted team to India in 1978/79. Then in 79 Gavaskar scored a brilliant double hundred in the English summer but failed in the WC. Then against Alan Borders depleted Australia Gavaskar scored 2 hundreds at home. Then in 79/80 he scored a very slow hundred against Asif Iqbal's not so good Pak at home. Then there was a one off test against England. By this time time Gavaskar's reputation was high but remember he was yet to face a good bowling side blazing. He was going to take India to Australia in 80/81 to play against Lilly and co and they were bowling well. That was the first real test on Gavaskar. Gavaskar failed miserably. A NewZealand tour followed. Then there was an important tour to Pakistan in 82. Gavaskar's second real test; Gavaskar didn't play bad; scored one good century but didn't do enough with Mohinder Amarnath to stop Pakistan. cont....

  • on February 16, 2014, 14:39 GMT

    yes i also do think that purely as a test batsman , SMG was better than SRT and dont forget , SMG was a opener.

  • NALINWIJ on February 16, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    There are batsmen who sacrificed their attacking skills to minimise their chance of dismissal in test cricket. This sacrifice is the difference between Steve and Mark Waugh and between Greg and Ian Chappell. Sunil Gavaskar''s embrassing innings in 1975 world cup against England contrasted sharply against his only ODI century that was needed to increase the run rate against NZ in 1987 world cup showing what he could have done in ODI.

  • balajik2505 on February 16, 2014, 14:02 GMT

    MarudhuDelft, if attacking batting alone makes a great batsman, most of the earlier batsmen would not qualify. Gavaskar was rated very high by his contemporaries. Viv Richards could play his attacking game because he had Haynes and Greendige before and Lloyd, Gomes, Kallicharan and Richardson to play along with for most of his career. He also played with one of the most fearsome attacks in history and could afford to attack. Remember one thing, Gavaskar was the first to 10000 runs in any form of the international game. Others passed him, but he was the 1st there. By whatever criterion, Gavaskar was a great batsman. Tendulkar spoiled his record after the 2011 World Cup; but to say he is not a great batsman is preposterous.

  • on February 16, 2014, 13:15 GMT

    West indies team of 1971 was equal to sri lanka of 1980. they went on to be a great side later on but at that poitn they werent a great side. Gavaskar is very overrated. His average in won matches was just 43. even dhoni sverages over 50 in won test matches. I remember how he refused to face west indian fast biwlers when they threw a biuncer at him. I remember when he took his patrner to dressing room inaustralia when he was given a plumb lbw. This is the besuty of historians. With thier pen they can make xyz great but those who hsve seen him like me sre never gonna believe in thier self made stories. Btw di u remember his 34 rung inng in 75 WC match?

  • on February 16, 2014, 13:13 GMT

    Like the author, and so many of us out there, I grew up listening/watching to every inning Gavaskar ever batted after ONLY listening and/or reading about his heroics from his maiden voyage on WI tour from '71.

  • on February 16, 2014, 13:01 GMT

    While not taking one whit away from he greatness of Viv Richards, I wonder how he would have fared against Roberts, Garner, Holding and Marshall. I personally feel comparisons are odious. Suffice it to say, that Gavaskar's arrival heralded a new dawn for India and that tradition was carried manfully forward by Sachin, Rahul, Laxman and their teammates.

  • Sir_Ivor on February 16, 2014, 12:29 GMT

    Vijay Merchant who was then the Chairman of the selection committee had a bias against Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and wanted him out.Lore has it that he held a greviance against Mansur because in 1946 the senior Pataudi Sr had been made the captain in England.Merchant had believed that he should have got that privilege considering his indisputable standing as a batsman apart from his experience. I am inclined to agree with Merchant's presumption.Why I am mentioning this here is because for some reason,Pataudi Jr for some reason had been dropped after the series against Australia in 1969.He was taken out of captaincy and Wadekar was brought in. In a split decision about who should captain India in West Indies in the tour that the author refers to,Merchant cast his vote in favour of Wadekar.Gavaskar's baptism at the highest level is well documented.I believe it is impossible to compare Sunny and Sachin.But I believe Indian cricket's evolution coincided with Sachin's career from 1989 to 2013

  • concrete_stand on February 16, 2014, 12:28 GMT

    None of us here in Trinidad who watched those batting performances by Gavaskar at the Queens Park Oval in Port of Spain could ever forget him...the man caused us so much pain as W.I. supporters ,haha. So much so that the Trinidadian calypsonian Relator composed and sang that famous song that is still played on T&T radio stations occasionally, and which chorus line goes.. "Just like a wall, dey couldn't stop Gavaskar at all, not at all...no de West Indies couldn't stop Gavaskar at all" I'm sure Mr.Gavaskar has that recorded calypso at his home in his music collection and continues to listen to it with a big smile on his face. Thanks for the memories:)

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 12:24 GMT

    @Rufus_Fuddleduck, I don't know if Gavaskar was bale to score quick in 72/73 against good sides but if India was more important to him fine. But for a great player like Viv Richards both his country and CRICKET itself were equally important. Therefore he didn't compromise. He made sure he entertained anywhere he played.

  • Aurovillian on February 16, 2014, 12:05 GMT

    I agree completely with Mr Ramnarayan. We must remember that in Gavaskar's time, the rest of India's batting was not the greatest and he bore a great load on his shoulders. In fact, I once met Sobers and some of his colleagues in England and they were saying that, when bowling, they tried twice as hard against Gavaskar, as against any other Indian batsman because they knew that once they got rid of Gavaskar there was good possibility that the Indian batting would collapse. Along with Vijay Merchant and Rahul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar must rank as one of the greatest and most correct of India's batsmen.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on February 16, 2014, 10:53 GMT

    @MaruthuDelft - beg to differ. Gavaskar also had a bias towards attack and indeed in the '72 and '73 seasons his runs came quite quickly. His discipline didn't allow him to hit the ball in the air and so he was not quite a hit with the fans as Durrani, Kapil, Tendulkar and their ilk. His slow scoring tendencies emerged from a discussion with Sir Don Bradman, where the great man suggested that India needed Gavaskar's technical competence and staying power more than a few quick runs. That was when he substantially modified his game. This is mostly documented in his book Sunny Days. Having said that - Vishwanath indeed used to take the attack to the opposition just as a matter of principle.

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 10:34 GMT

    Gavaskar was a slow scorer so he was not really a great batsman. You should be frank Ramnarayan and India. If you can't take the attack to the opposition but can score a lot you have understood, practised and mastered only the defensive part of batting. To be considered great you should master the attacking side of batting too and demonstrate consistently in tests and ODIs. Tendulkar at least early in his career was a genuinely great batsman; Gavaskar was never a great batsman.

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 10:34 GMT

    Gavaskar was a slow scorer so he was not really a great batsman. You should be frank Ramnarayan and India. If you can't take the attack to the opposition but can score a lot you have understood, practised and mastered only the defensive part of batting. To be considered great you should master the attacking side of batting too and demonstrate consistently in tests and ODIs. Tendulkar at least early in his career was a genuinely great batsman; Gavaskar was never a great batsman.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on February 16, 2014, 10:53 GMT

    @MaruthuDelft - beg to differ. Gavaskar also had a bias towards attack and indeed in the '72 and '73 seasons his runs came quite quickly. His discipline didn't allow him to hit the ball in the air and so he was not quite a hit with the fans as Durrani, Kapil, Tendulkar and their ilk. His slow scoring tendencies emerged from a discussion with Sir Don Bradman, where the great man suggested that India needed Gavaskar's technical competence and staying power more than a few quick runs. That was when he substantially modified his game. This is mostly documented in his book Sunny Days. Having said that - Vishwanath indeed used to take the attack to the opposition just as a matter of principle.

  • Aurovillian on February 16, 2014, 12:05 GMT

    I agree completely with Mr Ramnarayan. We must remember that in Gavaskar's time, the rest of India's batting was not the greatest and he bore a great load on his shoulders. In fact, I once met Sobers and some of his colleagues in England and they were saying that, when bowling, they tried twice as hard against Gavaskar, as against any other Indian batsman because they knew that once they got rid of Gavaskar there was good possibility that the Indian batting would collapse. Along with Vijay Merchant and Rahul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar must rank as one of the greatest and most correct of India's batsmen.

  • MaruthuDelft on February 16, 2014, 12:24 GMT

    @Rufus_Fuddleduck, I don't know if Gavaskar was bale to score quick in 72/73 against good sides but if India was more important to him fine. But for a great player like Viv Richards both his country and CRICKET itself were equally important. Therefore he didn't compromise. He made sure he entertained anywhere he played.

  • concrete_stand on February 16, 2014, 12:28 GMT

    None of us here in Trinidad who watched those batting performances by Gavaskar at the Queens Park Oval in Port of Spain could ever forget him...the man caused us so much pain as W.I. supporters ,haha. So much so that the Trinidadian calypsonian Relator composed and sang that famous song that is still played on T&T radio stations occasionally, and which chorus line goes.. "Just like a wall, dey couldn't stop Gavaskar at all, not at all...no de West Indies couldn't stop Gavaskar at all" I'm sure Mr.Gavaskar has that recorded calypso at his home in his music collection and continues to listen to it with a big smile on his face. Thanks for the memories:)

  • Sir_Ivor on February 16, 2014, 12:29 GMT

    Vijay Merchant who was then the Chairman of the selection committee had a bias against Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and wanted him out.Lore has it that he held a greviance against Mansur because in 1946 the senior Pataudi Sr had been made the captain in England.Merchant had believed that he should have got that privilege considering his indisputable standing as a batsman apart from his experience. I am inclined to agree with Merchant's presumption.Why I am mentioning this here is because for some reason,Pataudi Jr for some reason had been dropped after the series against Australia in 1969.He was taken out of captaincy and Wadekar was brought in. In a split decision about who should captain India in West Indies in the tour that the author refers to,Merchant cast his vote in favour of Wadekar.Gavaskar's baptism at the highest level is well documented.I believe it is impossible to compare Sunny and Sachin.But I believe Indian cricket's evolution coincided with Sachin's career from 1989 to 2013

  • on February 16, 2014, 13:01 GMT

    While not taking one whit away from he greatness of Viv Richards, I wonder how he would have fared against Roberts, Garner, Holding and Marshall. I personally feel comparisons are odious. Suffice it to say, that Gavaskar's arrival heralded a new dawn for India and that tradition was carried manfully forward by Sachin, Rahul, Laxman and their teammates.

  • on February 16, 2014, 13:13 GMT

    Like the author, and so many of us out there, I grew up listening/watching to every inning Gavaskar ever batted after ONLY listening and/or reading about his heroics from his maiden voyage on WI tour from '71.

  • on February 16, 2014, 13:15 GMT

    West indies team of 1971 was equal to sri lanka of 1980. they went on to be a great side later on but at that poitn they werent a great side. Gavaskar is very overrated. His average in won matches was just 43. even dhoni sverages over 50 in won test matches. I remember how he refused to face west indian fast biwlers when they threw a biuncer at him. I remember when he took his patrner to dressing room inaustralia when he was given a plumb lbw. This is the besuty of historians. With thier pen they can make xyz great but those who hsve seen him like me sre never gonna believe in thier self made stories. Btw di u remember his 34 rung inng in 75 WC match?

  • balajik2505 on February 16, 2014, 14:02 GMT

    MarudhuDelft, if attacking batting alone makes a great batsman, most of the earlier batsmen would not qualify. Gavaskar was rated very high by his contemporaries. Viv Richards could play his attacking game because he had Haynes and Greendige before and Lloyd, Gomes, Kallicharan and Richardson to play along with for most of his career. He also played with one of the most fearsome attacks in history and could afford to attack. Remember one thing, Gavaskar was the first to 10000 runs in any form of the international game. Others passed him, but he was the 1st there. By whatever criterion, Gavaskar was a great batsman. Tendulkar spoiled his record after the 2011 World Cup; but to say he is not a great batsman is preposterous.