July 10, 2009

The importance of Sunny

Ayaz Memon
Gavaskar was was not just another cricketer but a metaphor for a country's aspirations
29

A few weeks ago, shortly after Sunil Gavaskar had delivered the first Dilip Sardesai Memorial lecture at the Cricket Club of India, a twentysomething man asked me if Gavaskar had been a better batsman than Sachin Tendulkar, reducing me to a hum-and-haw wreck. I could understand the legitimacy of his curiosity, but was there a legitimate answer?

I must here confess to being a Gavaskarphile. Who from my vintage isn't? The passage of time sometimes tends to either exaggerate or diminish the value of the past, but the Gavaskar phenomenon, all things considered, makes for one of the great stories of not just modern sport, but also Indian life.

I was 15 when he exploded into the Indian consciousness with his record-breaking exploits in the West Indies in 1970-71, and since then have followed his amazing journey, largely for professional purposes, sometimes with deep personal flourishes, mostly with awe and admiration, but sometimes also with despair and anguish.

On my first few tours as a cricket writer I got to know first-hand not only of Gavaskar's supreme batting skills, but also the different facets to his persona. In Pakistan in 1982-83, he scored in excess of 400 runs, but became increasingly moody as the series started going awry and his captaincy came under threat. Despite that, his innate sense of humour never deserted him. In Hyderabad (Sind), after India had lost the Test and the series, I remember Gavaskar being asked by a journalist how he would have liked India's batsmen to play the rampaging Imran Khan. "The best way would be to put a sightscreen between him and us," he replied with a straight face.

This humour could, of course, move from being self-deprecatory to caustic in the matter of minutes - or a few tours. In 1985, when India went to Sri Lanka, Gavaskar was still determined to bat in the middle order, much to the chagrin of the captain, Kapil Dev. Soon after arrival, asked informally by the press corps if he had given up opening, Gavaskar was vehement in denial. "I will open doors and bottles, but opening the innings is another matter," he said with a smile.

Our paths have criss-crossed several times over 30 years, and we even worked together at the same publication, Sportsweek, for a while, but I can't claim to know Gavaskar intimately. Apart from his immediate family and a few close friends, I doubt anybody does. Like most virtuosos - in any walk of life - he can be aloof to the world around him, living out his personal convictions with an inner strength that makes him almost immune to what people think.

This was more pronounced in his playing days, when he could be stubborn, obstinate, tantrum-prone and sanctimonious - apart from being a record-breaking batsman. Sometimes it would appear that he was at war with the world, sometimes with himself; both were probably true. He fought furiously for pride and self-respect at a time when Indian cricket was easily dismissed; he also raged for perfection as a batsman because he wanted to be the best, no less. Not all the time was he in the right. At times he could be easily riled by trifles or be seduced into petty-fogging to prove a minor point. In his time he has had a few memorable altercations with umpires, opponents, fellow players and administrators, which he would see as silly now. As captain, he sometimes stretched defensive tactics to bizarre levels (with active help from rival captain Keith Fletcher in 1981, it must be added), which accentuated his "mean" image. More infamously, he once batted 60 overs for 36 runs in the 1975 World Cup, and in 1981almost conceded a Test match after getting into a spat with Australian umpires.

But over a long career and life these prickly facets must be balanced by several other sanguine ones, not all known, for a more balanced picture of the man. Gavaskar's general disposition is usually sunny, as his nickname goes. He has a sense of fun that can oscillate between the droll and the ribald, depending on the company he is in.

He is also a terrific after-dinner speaker because he is a splendid raconteur. In an informal setting he can be a great mimic, bringing to the fore the tremendous powers of observation that helped him read the game so well. He can hold his own in any company, be it Nelson Mandela or a Bollywood starlet. His world view is large, his knowledge vast, and he can be an engaging conversationalist.

He has been Indian cricket's strongest minder. Few mess with him when he has a cause to fight. He was in the forefront of championing players' rights and was instrumental (along with Bishan Bedi) in giving the cricketers' association voice and meaning. It must be a cause of some regret to him that the current players don't see the Players' Association as important anymore.

After he retired, when we worked together at Sportsweek, there was not a week in which I didn't see him try to help out cricketers less fortunate than him with their benefit matches or some other financial assistance. "These guys have given everything for the game, and deserve support," he would say.

Some years later he started the Champs Foundation - without too much fanfare or publicity - to provide financial help to needy and ailing sportspersons across disciplines. Also, during the 1993 riots in Mumbai, as is famously known, he went and rescued a Muslim family from a mob near his residence.

Like Tendulkar, Gavaskar was for India not just another cricketer, but a metaphor of the country's aspirations and hopes. His very presence provided emotional and psychological security far beyond the parameters of a cricket field. He left an indelible impact on not just scorebooks, but on the Indian psyche

Students of psychology might see contradictions here, and they might not be entirely wrong; but then again, they wouldn't quite be completely right either. For, at his core, Gavaskar is no different from any of us: highly complex, but essentially human.

It is as cricketer that Gavaskar emerges unique and as one of the most towering personalities in the game. In a broader context, like Tendulkar, he was not just another cricketer but a metaphor for the country's aspirations and hopes.

In his tribute in Gavaskar: Portrait of a Hero, Peter Roebuck, writes, "[…] Such were his powers that he'd have been productive 50 years earlier or 50 years later; even in this hurrying world, some things do not change, the principles of batsmanship not least amongst them." But this is only half the saga. Gavaskar's very presence provided emotional and psychological security far beyond the parameters of a cricket field. He left an indelible impact on not just scorebooks but on the Indian psyche.

It intrigues me that not till his magnificent 221 in the heart-breaking run-chase at the Oval in 1979, which compelled Sir Len Hutton to call him the best opening batsman in the game, was Gavaskar's genius acknowledged worldwide, and he was rated alongside Viv Richards and Greg Chappell. By then, he had been playing for eight years and had scored more than 5000 runs! Sir Len, of course, had greater reason for empathy with Gavaskar, having been an opener himself.

There are several analyses and tributes that I can cite, but an anecdote involving another great player of the 80s, Javed Miandad, and a couple of his colleagues, perhaps puts things in the best perspective.

We were at Miandad's house in Lahore in 1989, celebrating his 100th Test match and in between the partying I asked the Pakistani maestro his opinion about Gavaskar. ''Many have played this game brilliantly but few have understood it as well as this man," said Miandad pointing in Gavaskar's direction. "He knows cricket like the back of his hand. Did you see his innings against us at Bangalore two years back?''

I had, and consider it perhaps the most skilful and poignant knock in Indian cricket history. Only one batsman in three innings of that Test match had crossed the 50-run mark. The ball turned square from day one, and India were to bat fourth chasing a little over 200 for victory. This was like climbing Mount Everest in a snowstorm. But Gavaskar was not to be fazed. With sublime technique and dogged determination, he mastered the conditions to keep India in the hunt even as wickets fell around him like nine pins.

On the rest day of the Test I went to interview Tauseef Ahmed, the offspinner, and his room-mate Iqbal Qasim, the left-arm spinner. The spin twins had reduced the Indian innings to rubble. Now only one man stood between them and victory: Gavaskar, unbeaten on 50-something. Tauseef and Qasim were usually chirpy souls, but on this day appeared so high-strung that they wouldn't even talk to each other.

"Woh Baba Adam ab tak khel raha hai [that old man is still batting],'' said Qasim, breaking the silence. ''Bat hain ya deewar? (does he have a bat or a wall?)'' Tauseef chipped in. ''We've not been able to sleep because of the tension."

The next day, just when it appeared that Gavaskar would win the match single-handed, he fell for 96. Imran Khan called it the best innings he had seen. India eventually lost that Test match by a small margin of 16 runs, and Gavaskar bowed out of Test cricket a forlorn, but never to be forgotten, hero.

It's almost 22 years since he retired, but memories of his exploits are still fresh. He arrived with a bang in 1970-71, scoring 774 runs in his debut Test series (still a record), and finished with a flourish, scoring 96 in his last Test innings, a century in his last first-class match, and a maiden hundred in his penultimate one-day game - all in 1987, at age 38. He retired as he always wanted to: when people asked why, not why not.

Which, of course, brings me back to the original query of the twentysomething lad at the CCI about Gavaskar and Tendulkar. I still don't have an answer, but I have a counter-query: Would there have been a Tendulkar as we know him if there was no Gavaskar?

Ayaz Memon is editor at large at DNA

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ssvscricket on July 11, 2009, 22:18 GMT

    Thanks for writing an excellent article on the master. When I think of Gavaskar, I always think of the word 'pride'. He wore it on his sleeve. It was this quality of his that stood him in high ground. After he scored 10,000 runs, he was asked if he was worried someone might overtake his record. His response:"A lot of people have reached the top of Mount Everest, but we all remember Edmund Hillary". Regarding retirement, his quote was:"You have to quit when people ask you Why, and not Why not". As referenced by Ayaz in this article, he quit the game after he played one of the best innings ever. He also timed his retirement in such a way that he scored a one-day hundred and a hundred at Lord's.

    Happy Birthday, Gavaskar. May God bless you...

  • nelson96 on July 11, 2009, 21:25 GMT

    mr. menon , wonderful job with the article. you are right on the money when you mention his innate sense of humor, his helping of fellow cricketers, his post dinner oratory skills and all. i have been fortunate enough to have seen this first hand. not many people can say that there idol has become there friend. i guess i am one of the fortunate ones. an amazingly giving son, father, husband, friend and cricketer. the most amazing thing to me about this gentlemen is his complete and utter ignorance of his greatness as a cricketer. his thing is-cricket is a game i loved and played and that's all done with. my personal opinion about him is that he is a way better human being than he ever was a cricketer and that is what makes him great.

  • DinakarAppaji on July 11, 2009, 16:11 GMT

    For sure, there wouldn't be a Tendulkar with out Sunny and Kapil. Sunny for all the reasons good/or bad - you are the piller of Indian Cricket and it couldn't be what it is now with out you. Wish you a very happy birthday.

  • essel1 on July 11, 2009, 14:43 GMT

    I have loved Sunny Gavaskar since the first time I saw him play agaisnt us (Pakistan) in the famous 1979-1980 series in Pakistan. To my joy Pakistan won the series but Gavaskar became a fixture in my mind. I read about his earlier exploits much later, and the infamous 36 vs england in his first one day, sounds unbeliveable in today's game but like the famous duck of Sir Donald, its there. Like another one of my favorite players, Jawed Miandad, you can love Sunny or hate him, but you cant ignore him.

  • Longmemory on July 11, 2009, 9:15 GMT

    Lots of well-deserved tributes. Let me add my two cents' worth. First, the man played for 99% of his career without a helmet - and in the era of the fastest bowlers. He faced up to the very first ball in nearly every match he played. Sometimes, as I watch the likes of Sehwag and Ganguly, I wonder how long their test careers would have lasted in the pre-helmet era. Second, invariably India would be something like 2 or 3 down for about 50 runs in nearly every Test that we played overseas - so a great deal of the runs he made came when under great pressure. Thirdly, bowlers always reserved their best stuff for Sunny because his wicket was the ultimate prize. And finally, as an opener, he never once got to bat against the friendliest pace attack in the world bar none - that of India. I never held the Melbourne incident against Sunny especially once he clarified he was abused in all sorts of ways by the Aussies. But to this day that 36 not out rankles. Wish it had not happened, that's all.

  • Avid.Cricket.Watcher on July 11, 2009, 8:43 GMT

    Good article. Gavaskar has undoubtedly been extraordinary as a cricketer and as a man. Perhaps what I respect most about him was his act of facing up to a mob and protecting fellow Indians during the 1993 riots. As a batsman, as Ramchandra Guha has pointed out often, he faced the best fast bowlers in the world (the mighty West Indians, Imran Khan, Lillee and Thomson) and more than held his own (averaging ~65 against the WI), and that too as an opener! However, on the flip side, in his written columns he has often been a little too touchy and abrasive towards those outside the subcontinent (though he's probably experienced their double standards in the past). I often wish he would be a little more "sunny" instead. Finally, comparisons are often odious. I dislike the Gavaskar - Tendulkar comparisons which belittle either one (as 'IndiaGoats' has done). Both are cricketing 'kohinoors' and outstanding role models off-the-field. Each has left an indelible mark on his own generation.

  • Pathiyal on July 11, 2009, 8:05 GMT

    I remember watching the way he played the game, his concentration, his innocent charm, his flawless technique, his command, sense of humour, the way he used to run from slips to slips between overs and that million dollar sunny smile on the face. Although not my favourite those days, I remember watching him with a lot of respect and appreciation or sometimes with hate when the scoring got slow. Sunny and Sachin had different approaches when it came to batting. Please stop this illogical comparisons (which makes absolutely no sense) and accept the fact - that both these wonderful pesonalities have made their country as well as the game of cricket, proud. Their incredible deeds on the field are a part of history and will be remembered as long as the Earth exists. I wish Sunil Gavaskar the very best in everything he does. Sunny saab, thanks a million and please continue to let your heart do the talking, not the head and we are here to continue appreciating you.

  • Jatinda on July 11, 2009, 7:10 GMT

    Gavaskar has done thing for India which are far more valuable than what Tendulkar has. Although Tendulkar shared the similar flourish and perhaps better talent, he could never take India on the victory side of the game, a feat which Gavaskar managed in his very first series (and against the best of the opposition). Tendulkar was always there, standing alone and fighting odds (and the best bowling attacks) but it seems more of a personal mental fight as compared to Gavaskar's which was also personal fight but only because team loosing a series or a match was his personal loss. Menon Sir, I believe Gavaskar is far ahead of Tendulkar for the sheer hunger he displayed for India's success AND being able to deliver on that end. Tendulkar's was a personal fight amongst India's shameful run in 1990's

  • IndiaGoats on July 11, 2009, 1:05 GMT

    Gavaskar vs. Tendulkar as a cricketer is debatable. I think Gavaskar has saved more tests (in those days, drawing a test was an achievement for India) than Tendulkar has won. In any case, where Gavaskar beats Tendulkar hands down is here: "His world view is large, his knowledge vast, and he can be an engaging conversationalist". Tendulkar's very personality fails to invoke any awe or respect. If I didn't know him from his cricket, I wouldn't be impressed at all.

  • gavaskar_fan on July 10, 2009, 20:52 GMT

    Happy birthday, my hero. I was seven when you started your exploits in 1971. There were many nights when I woke up at 3 AM to hear radio commentary of your batting. I went to every single test in Eden Gardens to see you batting, though other than the 1978-79 test against West Indies where you scored twin hundreds, you were never successful in Eden. Sachin is a better entertainer but to me you will remain the ultimate perfection in technique. I took photographs of your batting up close and then amazed at how the right hand always loosened up on a drive or a forward defensive strkoke to keep the ball on the ground. Between 1978, your lone battle against Imran and Sarfraz in Pakistan, to the Jubilee test in 1980, you were the BEST BATSMAN in the world, no argument. 60 was a low score by your standard, I hope you will keep going strong until you reach 3 figures. Many happy returns of the day.

  • ssvscricket on July 11, 2009, 22:18 GMT

    Thanks for writing an excellent article on the master. When I think of Gavaskar, I always think of the word 'pride'. He wore it on his sleeve. It was this quality of his that stood him in high ground. After he scored 10,000 runs, he was asked if he was worried someone might overtake his record. His response:"A lot of people have reached the top of Mount Everest, but we all remember Edmund Hillary". Regarding retirement, his quote was:"You have to quit when people ask you Why, and not Why not". As referenced by Ayaz in this article, he quit the game after he played one of the best innings ever. He also timed his retirement in such a way that he scored a one-day hundred and a hundred at Lord's.

    Happy Birthday, Gavaskar. May God bless you...

  • nelson96 on July 11, 2009, 21:25 GMT

    mr. menon , wonderful job with the article. you are right on the money when you mention his innate sense of humor, his helping of fellow cricketers, his post dinner oratory skills and all. i have been fortunate enough to have seen this first hand. not many people can say that there idol has become there friend. i guess i am one of the fortunate ones. an amazingly giving son, father, husband, friend and cricketer. the most amazing thing to me about this gentlemen is his complete and utter ignorance of his greatness as a cricketer. his thing is-cricket is a game i loved and played and that's all done with. my personal opinion about him is that he is a way better human being than he ever was a cricketer and that is what makes him great.

  • DinakarAppaji on July 11, 2009, 16:11 GMT

    For sure, there wouldn't be a Tendulkar with out Sunny and Kapil. Sunny for all the reasons good/or bad - you are the piller of Indian Cricket and it couldn't be what it is now with out you. Wish you a very happy birthday.

  • essel1 on July 11, 2009, 14:43 GMT

    I have loved Sunny Gavaskar since the first time I saw him play agaisnt us (Pakistan) in the famous 1979-1980 series in Pakistan. To my joy Pakistan won the series but Gavaskar became a fixture in my mind. I read about his earlier exploits much later, and the infamous 36 vs england in his first one day, sounds unbeliveable in today's game but like the famous duck of Sir Donald, its there. Like another one of my favorite players, Jawed Miandad, you can love Sunny or hate him, but you cant ignore him.

  • Longmemory on July 11, 2009, 9:15 GMT

    Lots of well-deserved tributes. Let me add my two cents' worth. First, the man played for 99% of his career without a helmet - and in the era of the fastest bowlers. He faced up to the very first ball in nearly every match he played. Sometimes, as I watch the likes of Sehwag and Ganguly, I wonder how long their test careers would have lasted in the pre-helmet era. Second, invariably India would be something like 2 or 3 down for about 50 runs in nearly every Test that we played overseas - so a great deal of the runs he made came when under great pressure. Thirdly, bowlers always reserved their best stuff for Sunny because his wicket was the ultimate prize. And finally, as an opener, he never once got to bat against the friendliest pace attack in the world bar none - that of India. I never held the Melbourne incident against Sunny especially once he clarified he was abused in all sorts of ways by the Aussies. But to this day that 36 not out rankles. Wish it had not happened, that's all.

  • Avid.Cricket.Watcher on July 11, 2009, 8:43 GMT

    Good article. Gavaskar has undoubtedly been extraordinary as a cricketer and as a man. Perhaps what I respect most about him was his act of facing up to a mob and protecting fellow Indians during the 1993 riots. As a batsman, as Ramchandra Guha has pointed out often, he faced the best fast bowlers in the world (the mighty West Indians, Imran Khan, Lillee and Thomson) and more than held his own (averaging ~65 against the WI), and that too as an opener! However, on the flip side, in his written columns he has often been a little too touchy and abrasive towards those outside the subcontinent (though he's probably experienced their double standards in the past). I often wish he would be a little more "sunny" instead. Finally, comparisons are often odious. I dislike the Gavaskar - Tendulkar comparisons which belittle either one (as 'IndiaGoats' has done). Both are cricketing 'kohinoors' and outstanding role models off-the-field. Each has left an indelible mark on his own generation.

  • Pathiyal on July 11, 2009, 8:05 GMT

    I remember watching the way he played the game, his concentration, his innocent charm, his flawless technique, his command, sense of humour, the way he used to run from slips to slips between overs and that million dollar sunny smile on the face. Although not my favourite those days, I remember watching him with a lot of respect and appreciation or sometimes with hate when the scoring got slow. Sunny and Sachin had different approaches when it came to batting. Please stop this illogical comparisons (which makes absolutely no sense) and accept the fact - that both these wonderful pesonalities have made their country as well as the game of cricket, proud. Their incredible deeds on the field are a part of history and will be remembered as long as the Earth exists. I wish Sunil Gavaskar the very best in everything he does. Sunny saab, thanks a million and please continue to let your heart do the talking, not the head and we are here to continue appreciating you.

  • Jatinda on July 11, 2009, 7:10 GMT

    Gavaskar has done thing for India which are far more valuable than what Tendulkar has. Although Tendulkar shared the similar flourish and perhaps better talent, he could never take India on the victory side of the game, a feat which Gavaskar managed in his very first series (and against the best of the opposition). Tendulkar was always there, standing alone and fighting odds (and the best bowling attacks) but it seems more of a personal mental fight as compared to Gavaskar's which was also personal fight but only because team loosing a series or a match was his personal loss. Menon Sir, I believe Gavaskar is far ahead of Tendulkar for the sheer hunger he displayed for India's success AND being able to deliver on that end. Tendulkar's was a personal fight amongst India's shameful run in 1990's

  • IndiaGoats on July 11, 2009, 1:05 GMT

    Gavaskar vs. Tendulkar as a cricketer is debatable. I think Gavaskar has saved more tests (in those days, drawing a test was an achievement for India) than Tendulkar has won. In any case, where Gavaskar beats Tendulkar hands down is here: "His world view is large, his knowledge vast, and he can be an engaging conversationalist". Tendulkar's very personality fails to invoke any awe or respect. If I didn't know him from his cricket, I wouldn't be impressed at all.

  • gavaskar_fan on July 10, 2009, 20:52 GMT

    Happy birthday, my hero. I was seven when you started your exploits in 1971. There were many nights when I woke up at 3 AM to hear radio commentary of your batting. I went to every single test in Eden Gardens to see you batting, though other than the 1978-79 test against West Indies where you scored twin hundreds, you were never successful in Eden. Sachin is a better entertainer but to me you will remain the ultimate perfection in technique. I took photographs of your batting up close and then amazed at how the right hand always loosened up on a drive or a forward defensive strkoke to keep the ball on the ground. Between 1978, your lone battle against Imran and Sarfraz in Pakistan, to the Jubilee test in 1980, you were the BEST BATSMAN in the world, no argument. 60 was a low score by your standard, I hope you will keep going strong until you reach 3 figures. Many happy returns of the day.

  • KishoreSharma on July 10, 2009, 20:52 GMT

    A fine article - well written and nuanced in pointing Gavaskar's strengths and flaws. I lived in England in 1979 and think Gavaskar's qualities were recognised even before that 221 - he had after all scored a lot of runs during the preceding winter. However, two factors went against him. First, he scored a lot of runs against weakened 'packer-era' teams. Second, he was primarily seen as a defensive batsman - in contrast to say Richards and Chappell. In that regard, I would say Tendulkar is the more complete player in that he can attack and defend well and, moreover, has succeeded in both tests and one-dayers. Gavaskar never had to face the type of jam-packed itinerary that Tendulkar has. Sachin, to me, is the most complete batsman I have seen since I started watching cricket in the 1970s. Cheers Kishore Sharma

  • YogifromNY on July 10, 2009, 19:50 GMT

    Ayaz saheb, great article, as yours usually are. I was 4 when Sunny played that debut series in the West Indies, and my memories are still vivid of my father and his father avidly listening to the commentary on radio and excitedly discussing his exploits. I have always loved his play and admired the man.

    Thank you for adding more all-around information about this great cricketer!

  • SRTRDXSCG on July 10, 2009, 19:49 GMT

    Even though Mr Ayaz did not categorically say that Sunny is a better batsman than Sachin, his bias is evident. Being biased is not a bad thing I must say. Its just the innate and almost genetic in nature. I saw Sachin debut when I was 12, so I have seen more of Sachin than Sunny. Although I did catch and vividly remember Sunny's last few years of cricket. His exemplary and iconic handling of the worlds fastest bowlers is all what I and friends talked about years after he retired. But I will say one thing, if the question is who the most complete batsman was/is, its definitely Sachin Tendulkar.

    The amount of runs Sachin made in all conditions, in all forms of the game is unparalleled. All this with the huge expecations riding on his shoulders game after game after game since he was 16 years of age. That puts him in his own league. With all due respects to Sunny, I am pretty sure he himself would agree that Sachin is the more complete batsman between the two.

  • Arvind_Vyas on July 10, 2009, 19:38 GMT

    Gavaskar on account of his ability to score in fourth inning is better than Tendulkar - who by the way could never manage 500+ runs in a test series; could not muster centuries in each inning of a test match. I believe Tendulkar still has to show a few tricks. Of course, in ODIs - Tendulkar rules, and thats what made him the star he is.

  • ICF_Lurker on July 10, 2009, 17:59 GMT

    In the era where every other person claims to be a journalist and when the reader rarely complete an entire article I must say I found this piece reading once, twice and then a third time. Guess old is gold eh Ayaz saaheb? Brilliant article, as always. The anecdotes had me in stiches. When was the last time I heard someone say "Baba Adam " hahahaha..I suppose it is one of those idioms/phrase that we are losing as our vocabulary gets replaced by "Whats up".....just like the technique of Gavaskar(not to mention his temperament) is getting replaced by wham-bam-thank-you-maam cricket. I have seen Gavaskar bat, and I have seen Sachin, Dravid, Sehwag, VVS at their best....Gavaskar, to me, remains the best of them all.

    Ayaz saab you should write more often. How about a piece on Kapil Dev next time?

  • Nipun on July 10, 2009, 16:44 GMT

    Very well written article indeed.However,although Gavaskar was a brilliant student of the game,so is Tendulkar.There's no way Tendulkar is a lesser understander of the game.Both are entirely different players playing in entirely different eras.Tendulkar would have been a great even in the 50s or 70s,just as Gavaskar would have been a great even in this era.

  • ariyanch on July 10, 2009, 15:14 GMT

    Truly wonderful article. The Ayaz bhai interview that went along with this is even more brilliant. Every question is a gem with or without Sunny's answers. I have been a lifelong 'Sunny as a batsman' fan and from this chain it appears there are many more like me. Staying up long nights for the WI trips or waking up early for the Aussie/NZ tests was mandatory when Sunny was at the crease or about to get there. How often did I say a small prayer when I switched on the commentary and heard - India 20 something for 1 - and the batsman that was out was not Sunny! Cutouts of him, GRV, Ekki's spectacular catches and the spin marvels wkts used to adorn my previous year lab books. I wish I had them still with me - would have been worth a fortune. Up until his 80th test match I had his test scores memorized and this was long before Statsguru/Cricinfo surfaced. Alas! only time I saw him bat live in test matches - he was out first ball in Blore and first ball new day at Lords! Chandu

  • Percy_Fender on July 10, 2009, 14:15 GMT

    Gavaskar was fearless as a batsman just as forthright as he is as a commentator and writer. He was suave because of his family background, schooling and the fact that he was from Bombay of the 60's and 70's, a very cosmopolitan place then. At the same time he was proud of his manoos identity as well and showed the world that India was a land which accomodated different cultures. His command of English, and ready wit, enabled him to match words, humour and the finer points of the game with the best of commentators the world over.That is because of his intelligence and awareness of the world around him. As is only human, he does have some prejudices but then that is only inevitable. He always got on well against the West Indians,the Pakistanis and the Sri lankans. Hiis attitude against the others may have been his motivation that caused him to achieve the greatness he did. Even prejudice can inspire as it did the Constantines the Headleys and the Sobers' of another era.

  • Percy_Fender on July 10, 2009, 13:55 GMT

    Sunil Gavasker made his debut in 71 in I think it was Port of Spain when he scored two half centuries.Those were the days of radio commentaries. He was unfit to play the earlier Test.Having followed his exploits for Bombay university and then for Bombay , I was particularly keen on seeing him perform in the West Indies which was indeed an important benchmark those days. His performance in that series was stupendous for someone making a beginning to his Test career.It was comparable with Bradman and Hammond. He remained someone special for me after that. I saw him equal Bradman in regard to the number of centuries at the Chepauk in 84 against West Indies again. I also saw him in what was probably his greatest innings. His final one in Bangalore in Feb 87 when he scored 96 and India lost batting last on a true burner of a pitch.I went to the same school as he did, St Xaviers and am very proud of that fact. He combined intelligence,technique, temperament and pride and was fearless.

  • amanaseem11 on July 10, 2009, 11:20 GMT

    No comparison is usually possible between two different generation of cricket. Also Tendulkar and Gavaskar are of different genres, one a opening bat and the other in middle order. (only test matches count for me!!).

    Gavaskar is arguably the greatest opener ever in World Cricket (maybe Hutton or Hobbs for company). Opening the batting is an art mastered by very few. Also it must be remembered that usually after Gavaskar there was not much run making batsmen (not talent wise, but International runs were scarce).

    For our generation Gavasker stands far and above the Best Batsmen we will see from India. He epitomised the aspiration of every indian at that time and possibly started the generation of doers instead of criers.

    I hope that he lives a long long life and imparts his immense understanding of the game to us with his usual humour.

    Many happy returns "Sunny"

  • Sunder_vw on July 10, 2009, 10:51 GMT

    Great article Mr. Ayaz. You brought back nostalgic memories of my obsession with Gavaskar's batting exploits in the 70s and 80s. My response to the eternal Gavaskar-Tendulkar comparison would be - considering the batsman-cricketer-personality trio, Tendulkar is perhaps the better batsman and cricketer but Gavaskar was the better cricketer and personality.

  • Bazza on July 10, 2009, 9:11 GMT

    Happy Birthday Sunny! I grew up hoping every time Sunny walked in he should get a hundred and he fulfilled my wish 34 times. He was a great player, instilled self belief and confidence just like Imran did to Pakistani players. I do not think anyone comes close to him in cricketing knowledge and understanding of the game. I saw him on channel in Australia when Bhajji-Symonds controversy was raging and his fothright views made Mark Taylor and Mark Nicholas bumble and they looked so ordinary in front of Sunil. Sunny is also the shrewdest Indian cricketer, a tactician, planner and always has the bigger picture in front of him. His captaincy during B&H 1985 in Australia was absolutely brilliant and he managed his team in the most exemplary fashion one can imagine. I also saw him score hundreds against Pakistan in 1982 and he was an absolute champion batsman. I agree with Ayaz that there would have been no Tendulkar if Indians hadn't seen a Gavaskar before.

  • vsrajan on July 10, 2009, 8:33 GMT

    During his playing days, Gavaskar made all the fast bowlers pray to get his wicket. Qasim's comment itself is a great tribute to this Great Cricketer of all times. Mind you, that was his last test. You could imagine the younger days of Gavaskar creating scary dreams in the minds of fast bowlers. Each person has two sides in their personalities - so do Gavaskar. Imagine without Gavaskar, the cricketing world would have treated Indian cricket like dirt. His vehement comments coupled with money power has put Indian cricket in such a great height and now people dont take things for granted. Well written article and well articulated one.

  • venky2009 on July 10, 2009, 8:01 GMT

    Very evocative article, Ayaz. When I was growing up in the early/mid 1970s (in a pre-TV era), my parents realised that the only way they could get their lazybones, cricket-mad son out of bed in the morning was by waving the day's edition of The Hindu with reports - and pictures! - of Sunil Gavaskar's exploits in faraway fields. You're right when you say that to a generation of Indians, Gavaskar represented something beyond just cricket. He gave us great joy - and so did you, Ayaz, with this article! Many thanks for the happy memories.

  • VK29 on July 10, 2009, 7:55 GMT

    Very true that if there was no Gavaskar, we probably would not have the Sachin Tendulkar we have today... but in my opinion, Sunny is ahead of Tendulkar as a batsman. Firstly, Gavaskar played in an era where the bowlers were considered equals and the pitches were spicy and not batsmen friendly. There were no protective gears when Sunny started his career. I am not saying that Tendulkar is a bad batsman but the conditions Sachin has batted on has been far more simpler and easier than the ones Sunny has batted on. Sunny was more agressive than Sachin and has taken quite a few risks. Most importantly, opening an innings is far more difficult than playing in the middle order since the openers have to counter the hardness and the shine

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on July 10, 2009, 7:37 GMT

    Sunil Gavaskar is one of the greatest the game has ever seen. I would not fully agree with the view that without Gavaskar there might not have been a Tendulkar but thats a different one altogether.

    Like Tendulkar, Gavaskar carried the Indian batting alone maybe for longer than Tendulkar did because Indian batting reached its zenith when Dravid, Sehwag, Laxman and Ganguly joined SRT.

    Post-retirement Gavaskar has tended to get under the skin of many because he says it as he sees it. Considering that Cricinfo's favourite Gideon Haigh devoted a whole article to bashing Gavaskar its obvious Gavaskar hits where it hurts the most.

    Even though he is on the IPL panel. Gavaskar asked young Indian cricketers to look at playing for India than just the IPL. Is there any greater example of being fair and forthright?

  • RSG476 on July 10, 2009, 7:34 GMT

    "There would not have been a Tendulkar if there was no Gavaskar" - that is one of the most perceptive comments I have seen in Cricinfo in a long time. Gavaskar helped Indian cricketers develop self-belief and confidence. It was different from Vishwanath as the Vishy probably had greater style and flashes of brilliance, but far less consistency. It was also the the ability to play a dogged, ugly innings for the country that set SMG apart. He inspired confidence and gave Indian cricket a steel that was not seen earlier.

  • ram17 on July 10, 2009, 7:25 GMT

    Sir, Javed Miandad may have paid a complement after two years of that B'lore test match, but both miandad and imran always said that Indian Umpires don't give LBW against Gavaskar - thus discounting Gavaskar's exploits. Gavaskar for whatever reasons comes out to be schemeing little fella. And he does never open his real self in public. Ask Bhogle on that matter. He had a tough time to let Gavaskar speak in a couple TV serial interviews. Also unfortunately your blog is read by younger generations and not oldies like me - so they don't know the real Gavaskar. Ask any punjabi why they hate Gavaskar - there could be a million reasons - not least the treatment he meted out to the rustic Kapil Dev, time and again. No sir, Sunny is indeed a great opening batsman and equally great commentator with subtle humor - but as a human being i don't think he is really great - whatever little anecdotes on 1993 riots and helping deserving players you may have mentioned in the blog. BUT SACHIN IS.

  • srini701 on July 10, 2009, 5:49 GMT

    Beautifully written article, Ayaz. Gavaskar remains, to this day, the greatest opener India has ever had and he would probably walk into many a good sports writer's All-time Dream XI too. You are bang on when you say he fought for and brought self-respect to Indian cricket. And yes, if there was no Gavaskar, we probably would not have the Sachin Tendulkar we have today.

    Happy Birthday to Gavaskar....may he continue to bat for many more years to come!

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  • srini701 on July 10, 2009, 5:49 GMT

    Beautifully written article, Ayaz. Gavaskar remains, to this day, the greatest opener India has ever had and he would probably walk into many a good sports writer's All-time Dream XI too. You are bang on when you say he fought for and brought self-respect to Indian cricket. And yes, if there was no Gavaskar, we probably would not have the Sachin Tendulkar we have today.

    Happy Birthday to Gavaskar....may he continue to bat for many more years to come!

  • ram17 on July 10, 2009, 7:25 GMT

    Sir, Javed Miandad may have paid a complement after two years of that B'lore test match, but both miandad and imran always said that Indian Umpires don't give LBW against Gavaskar - thus discounting Gavaskar's exploits. Gavaskar for whatever reasons comes out to be schemeing little fella. And he does never open his real self in public. Ask Bhogle on that matter. He had a tough time to let Gavaskar speak in a couple TV serial interviews. Also unfortunately your blog is read by younger generations and not oldies like me - so they don't know the real Gavaskar. Ask any punjabi why they hate Gavaskar - there could be a million reasons - not least the treatment he meted out to the rustic Kapil Dev, time and again. No sir, Sunny is indeed a great opening batsman and equally great commentator with subtle humor - but as a human being i don't think he is really great - whatever little anecdotes on 1993 riots and helping deserving players you may have mentioned in the blog. BUT SACHIN IS.

  • RSG476 on July 10, 2009, 7:34 GMT

    "There would not have been a Tendulkar if there was no Gavaskar" - that is one of the most perceptive comments I have seen in Cricinfo in a long time. Gavaskar helped Indian cricketers develop self-belief and confidence. It was different from Vishwanath as the Vishy probably had greater style and flashes of brilliance, but far less consistency. It was also the the ability to play a dogged, ugly innings for the country that set SMG apart. He inspired confidence and gave Indian cricket a steel that was not seen earlier.

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on July 10, 2009, 7:37 GMT

    Sunil Gavaskar is one of the greatest the game has ever seen. I would not fully agree with the view that without Gavaskar there might not have been a Tendulkar but thats a different one altogether.

    Like Tendulkar, Gavaskar carried the Indian batting alone maybe for longer than Tendulkar did because Indian batting reached its zenith when Dravid, Sehwag, Laxman and Ganguly joined SRT.

    Post-retirement Gavaskar has tended to get under the skin of many because he says it as he sees it. Considering that Cricinfo's favourite Gideon Haigh devoted a whole article to bashing Gavaskar its obvious Gavaskar hits where it hurts the most.

    Even though he is on the IPL panel. Gavaskar asked young Indian cricketers to look at playing for India than just the IPL. Is there any greater example of being fair and forthright?

  • VK29 on July 10, 2009, 7:55 GMT

    Very true that if there was no Gavaskar, we probably would not have the Sachin Tendulkar we have today... but in my opinion, Sunny is ahead of Tendulkar as a batsman. Firstly, Gavaskar played in an era where the bowlers were considered equals and the pitches were spicy and not batsmen friendly. There were no protective gears when Sunny started his career. I am not saying that Tendulkar is a bad batsman but the conditions Sachin has batted on has been far more simpler and easier than the ones Sunny has batted on. Sunny was more agressive than Sachin and has taken quite a few risks. Most importantly, opening an innings is far more difficult than playing in the middle order since the openers have to counter the hardness and the shine

  • venky2009 on July 10, 2009, 8:01 GMT

    Very evocative article, Ayaz. When I was growing up in the early/mid 1970s (in a pre-TV era), my parents realised that the only way they could get their lazybones, cricket-mad son out of bed in the morning was by waving the day's edition of The Hindu with reports - and pictures! - of Sunil Gavaskar's exploits in faraway fields. You're right when you say that to a generation of Indians, Gavaskar represented something beyond just cricket. He gave us great joy - and so did you, Ayaz, with this article! Many thanks for the happy memories.

  • vsrajan on July 10, 2009, 8:33 GMT

    During his playing days, Gavaskar made all the fast bowlers pray to get his wicket. Qasim's comment itself is a great tribute to this Great Cricketer of all times. Mind you, that was his last test. You could imagine the younger days of Gavaskar creating scary dreams in the minds of fast bowlers. Each person has two sides in their personalities - so do Gavaskar. Imagine without Gavaskar, the cricketing world would have treated Indian cricket like dirt. His vehement comments coupled with money power has put Indian cricket in such a great height and now people dont take things for granted. Well written article and well articulated one.

  • Bazza on July 10, 2009, 9:11 GMT

    Happy Birthday Sunny! I grew up hoping every time Sunny walked in he should get a hundred and he fulfilled my wish 34 times. He was a great player, instilled self belief and confidence just like Imran did to Pakistani players. I do not think anyone comes close to him in cricketing knowledge and understanding of the game. I saw him on channel in Australia when Bhajji-Symonds controversy was raging and his fothright views made Mark Taylor and Mark Nicholas bumble and they looked so ordinary in front of Sunil. Sunny is also the shrewdest Indian cricketer, a tactician, planner and always has the bigger picture in front of him. His captaincy during B&H 1985 in Australia was absolutely brilliant and he managed his team in the most exemplary fashion one can imagine. I also saw him score hundreds against Pakistan in 1982 and he was an absolute champion batsman. I agree with Ayaz that there would have been no Tendulkar if Indians hadn't seen a Gavaskar before.

  • Sunder_vw on July 10, 2009, 10:51 GMT

    Great article Mr. Ayaz. You brought back nostalgic memories of my obsession with Gavaskar's batting exploits in the 70s and 80s. My response to the eternal Gavaskar-Tendulkar comparison would be - considering the batsman-cricketer-personality trio, Tendulkar is perhaps the better batsman and cricketer but Gavaskar was the better cricketer and personality.

  • amanaseem11 on July 10, 2009, 11:20 GMT

    No comparison is usually possible between two different generation of cricket. Also Tendulkar and Gavaskar are of different genres, one a opening bat and the other in middle order. (only test matches count for me!!).

    Gavaskar is arguably the greatest opener ever in World Cricket (maybe Hutton or Hobbs for company). Opening the batting is an art mastered by very few. Also it must be remembered that usually after Gavaskar there was not much run making batsmen (not talent wise, but International runs were scarce).

    For our generation Gavasker stands far and above the Best Batsmen we will see from India. He epitomised the aspiration of every indian at that time and possibly started the generation of doers instead of criers.

    I hope that he lives a long long life and imparts his immense understanding of the game to us with his usual humour.

    Many happy returns "Sunny"