Sunil Gavaskar July 10, 2009

A class act

Cricinfo staff
A timeline for Sunil Gavaskar's career from 1971 to 1987

Sunil Gavaskar made a dream start to his Test career in a historic series against West Indies in the Caribbean in 1971, which India won 1-0, their first in the region. On debut, he made 65 and an unbeaten 67 in India's seven-wicket win in Port of Spain, and followed the performance up with four centuries and another half-century in the next four Tests. He finished the series with 774 runs at a staggering average of 154.80. (Click here for Gavaskar's series averages in chronological order.)

Another unprecedented series win in England followed - the margin was again 1-0 - but Gavaskar's performance in the series was far less dramatic. He averaged just 24, and it was another 16 innings before he reached his next century, against England in Manchester in 1974.

In the next four series after his sensational debut, Gavaskar averaged a relatively modest 28. It included one century and six fifties in two series wins - both against England - and two losses, one against England and other against West Indies. (Click here for India's performances in Test series involving Gavaskar.)

India had a poor time in the inaugural World Cup in England in 1975 under S Venkatraghavan. They managed a solitary win against East Africa. Gavaskar was especially criticised for his go-slow approach against England in the tournament opener while chasing 334. Gavaskar struck one boundary in his unbeaten 36 off 174 balls, as India finished on an embarassing 136 for 3 in 60 overs.

Gavaskar experienced his first stint as India's captain in New Zealand in January 1976, taking over from Nawab of Pataudi, who had played his last Test against West Indies earlier in the month. Gavaskar excelled in his first Test as captain, making 116 and an unbeaten 35 in India's eight-wicket win in Auckland. However, India lost by an innings in the final Test in Wellington and the series was drawn 1-1.

Bishen Singh Bedi was appointed captain for India's next series in the Caribbean. After an innings defeat in Bridgetown, Sunil Gavaskar struck an unbeaten 156 in the drawn second Test in Port of Spain. However, the highlight of the tour came in the third Test, at the same venue, when Gavaskar and G Viswanath hit centuries in the fourth innings to help India chase down a target of 403. The feat was a record at the time for the highest target chased in a Test. But the series was lost in an acrimonious final Test in Kingston after five Indian batsmen absented themselves due to injury in the second innings. The West Indies bowlers were accused of persistent intimidatory bowling to mark a sad culmination to an exciting Test series. Gavaskar finished the rubber with an average of 55.71.

Gavaskar began his most successful phase with the bat, scoring three centuries in the five-Test series against Australia in 1977-78. His 118 in Melbourne helped India to its first Test win in the country but an agonizing 47-run loss in the decider in Adelaide while chasing 493, saw them lose the series 3-2.

He followed that up with a hundred in each innings in Karachi against Pakistan, but in a losing cause as India were beaten 2-0 in the series.

Gavaskar captained India in their next Test series, at home against West Indies. He struck four centuries in the series, and led his team to a 1-0 win.

S Venkatraghavan returned as captain for the tour of England, where India lost the Tests 1-0. However, Gavaskar averaged 77.42 in the series, including perhaps his best innings overseas, at The Oval. He made 221 in the fourth innings as India pursued 438 for victory, but fell just nine short.

Gavaskar was then re-appointed captain, this time for an extended run, and he led India to series wins against Australia and Pakistan. Some personal highlights were centuries in Mumbai and Chennai; he finished a run of six consecutive series with an average of above 50.

India drew the Test series in Australia in 1980-81 under Gavaskar's leadership with a 59-run win in Melbourne, but the Test was also remembered for his outburst upon being given lbw off Dennis Lillee. He led his partner Chetan Chauhan off the field in protest, before India's team manager intervened to restore normalcy.

Series defeats to New Zealand, England and Pakistan followed, though Gavaskar's performance with the bat continued to be impressive. But the 3-0 defeat in Pakistan resulted in him being stripped off his captaincy, and the reigns handed over to Kapil Dev. (Click here for India's series record under Gavaskar's leadership.)

Gavaskar was a part of the greatest moment in India's cricket history, when they won the World Cup in 1983, beating West Indies in the final at Lord's. However, Gavaskar only made 2 in that game. He was comparitively far less prolific in the limited-overs format, finishing with an average of 35.13 in 108 games.

When West Indies toured India towards the end of 1983, Gavaskar reached a series of personal milestones and set records. In the third Test in Ahmedabad, during his innings of 90, Gavaskar went past Geoff Boycott's 8114 runs to become the highest run-getter in Tests, a record which was eventually broken by Allan Border. In the sixth and final Test in Chennai, Gavaskar broke Don Bradman's record of 29 Test centuries and achieved a career-best score of 236, the highest by an Indian at the time. However, India were soundly beaten 3-0 in the series.

A poor run as captain for Kapil Dev led to Gavaskar's reinstatement to the post, but captained India only in two more Test series - a drawn one in Pakistan and a 2-1 loss at home against England. But during the period, he tasted his biggest success as captain of the one-day team, leading India to victory in the World Championship of Cricket in Australia with an eight-wicket win over Pakistan in the final.

Australia were at the receiving end of Gavaskar's excellent form in the drawn three-Test series in Australia 1985-86 where he struck two centuries. But perhaps his best innings against Australia came in the famous Tied Test in Chennai, where he made 90 in chase of 348.

Gavaskar reached another major landmark in his final Test series, against Pakistan at home. His late-cut off Ijaz Fakih in the Ahmedabad Test brought up his 10,000th run in Test cricket, the first batsman to have achieved that feat. He signed off with a classy 96 in his last Test innings in Bangalore, but the game ended in a heartbreaking defeat for India.

He made his last international appearance in the 1987 World Cup and in his penultimate game, smashed an uncharacteristic 103 off 88 balls to help India top their group with a win over New Zealand.

Following his retirement, Gavaskar earned a reputation as an incisive commentator and columnist. He also headed the ICC's cricket committee before resigning in May last year.