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'I'm still in awe of Sunny'
Part one: Wasim Akram on the toughest batsmen he bowled to. First up: the Little Master (00:00)
Producer: Ranjit Shinde
April 24, 2012
'I'm still in awe of Sunny'April 24, 2012
Sunil Gavaskar was one of the biggest batsmen then, and of course now as well - great legend.
When I started playing for Pakistan my dream was to get Sunny Gavaskar out. I remember Imran Khan talking about him all the time, about his technique, Javed Miandad talking about him, Zaheer Abbas - everybody talked about one batsman - Sunil Gavaskar. His technique, his temperament, and for me getting his wicket was the ultimate.
I remember, in 1987 I bowled a quick spell - I was beginning to bowl quick at that time. It was the Chennai Test, the first Test match. Sunny got some runs there, 70-80 odd runs. The ball was reverse-swinging, I bowled a couple of bouncers, and I still remember, after 20-odd years, that he went on the front foot and then he came all the way back - the ball followed him, it was an inswinging bouncer. He bent back all the way and he could see the ball pass him.
He had so much time and his head was so still as a batsman that he never gave me his wicket in Test matches. Only time I got him [Akram dismissed Gavaskar two times in ODIs] was in Hyderabad in 1987. It was a one-day game. I bowled a bouncer which hit Kris Srikkanth in his eye, and Sunny bhai edged me to second slip. It was a grassy wicket, and I think that was the only grassy wicket in India in one-day cricket. That was a dream come true for me. I didn't say anything to Sunny bhai. Obviously at that time I was very young, I was in awe of him, and I am still in awe of him. He is a legend for me.
I remember the tours when I was very young, when India used to come to Pakistan. I remember three or four names from there - Sunny Gavaskar, Chetan Chauhan, and left-armer Karsan Ghavri. These were the names who regularly featured in the Indian team whenever they played in Pakistan.
Sunny's technique was incredible. He always played the ball very late and he never gave away his wicket, and that was the beauty of his batting. He would always be there on the crease. It didn't matter what the conditions were, the wicket, the situation… he was always there - positive on the front foot, and leaving the ball. I used to hate batsmen who used to leave the good deliveries, and Sunny was the master.
In 1987-88, I was just a young bowler. For me there was no planning. My aim was to bowl quick, run in every ball. Imran used to talk to me almost every delivery, and I felt comfortable talking to him. Okay, skipper, what should I do now? With the new ball just bowl outside the off stump and don't give anything away in Test cricket. When the ball starts reversing bowl yorkers, have your mid-on and mid-off straighter.
But I think with Sunny my aim was just to bowl length and bowl within the stumps, because he was so proper as far as knowing his off stump was concerned. He used to leave the ball just outside off stump, even when it was coming back in. He was always aware where his off stump was, and that annoyed me a lot. He was also aware of my yorkers at the time. I was learning to bowl yorkers then and he knew everything I was doing. It was incredible to see how he coped with my pace at that time, 1987-88, and he got runs against us every Test match he played, so I reckon he was one of the most difficult batsmen I bowled at, early on in my career.
In 1987-88 he was wearing a helmet. He started off with this cap - he used to look very cool in it; in Sharjah he used to wear that. But yes, the batsmen then never wore helmets. I used to say, "Okay, he is not going to get drives from me." Even Viv Richards I used to bowl lot of bouncers to, because he never wore a helmet. Carl Hooper in the beginning didn't wear a helmet, Richie Richardson never wore a helmet. They were great players. These batsmen knew how to leave a bouncer, but for me as a bowler I always knew I had a chance to bowl one or two bouncers to put them on the back foot, but it never happened with Sunny bhai.
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