February 5, 2008

Little masterclass

Top-handed Gavaskar and bottom-handed Tendulkar against the steepling bounce of Thomson, and Murali's doosra

Clockwise from above Thomson, Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Muralitharan © Getty Images, PA Photos

When I was a teenager I held my breath every time Sunil Gavaskar walked out. When I became part of the media, I used to find myself spellbound watching Sachin Tendulkar bat. People often try and compare the two masters, and truth be told, I find that boring.

What I would have loved, though, more than anything else, would have been seeing them bat together on a track like the Gabba; or The Oval as it used to be, with good but predictable bounce. Or maybe the odd Chepauk pitch. How would they rotate the strike? How would they relate to each other's styles? Would there be a little contest somewhere?

Gavaskar, classical, top-handed, up on his toes, with the bouncing ball dropping by his feet off the face of the bat... Tendulkar, to the same ball: heavy bat, bottom-handed, punching past cover or even up and above over third man...

Who would they bat against? Tendulkar has played Shoaib, and a bit of Wasim and Waqar, Lee and a bit of Bond. Would he cope, and how, against the steepling bounce of Jeff Thomson, the cult fast bowler? Would he pull at all, I wonder? Would the uppercut appear? And how many would he let go?

Gavaskar played Derek Underwood and Abdul Qadir, and in domestic cricket the offspin of Prasanna and Venkat, the legspin of Chandra and VV Kumar, and had fine encounters with Bishan Bedi. But on a track with bounce, how would he go against Muttiah Muralitharan with the doosra? Cocooned like he was in his 96 at Bangalore? Narrowed eyes reading the grip, watching the ball in the air, and yet leaving enough time to drop his wrists on it...