India v West Indies, second Test, Delhi, 1983 March 21, 2010

Hook-filled and Bradmanesque

Pradeep Magazine
Sunil Gavaskar's 29th Test century came against two of the most ferocious quicks of all time

It can be almost impossible to figure out which is the best innings one has watched. Memory can play tricks with you and nostalgia can exaggerate the worth of an event and make it appear more valuable than it seemed when it was played.

Taking inspiration from what Marquez said, "Life is not what one lived but how one remembers it", I go back 27 years to an innings I think is among the very best, if not the best, I have seen.

Sunil Gavaskar had perhaps the most balanced stance in the history of the game, a perfect blend of elegance and grace, even before he had made his first move to address the ball. So it was hard to believe the man who had tamed the most furious fast bowlers of his time had his bat been knocked out of his hand by a Malcolm Marshall bouncer in the 1983 Kanpur Test against West Indies. India lost that match by an innings and the critics began to ask that he step down. Gavaskar was on the retreat.

The next Test was in Delhi, where he was once again subjected to a vicious short-ball attack by Marshall and Michael Holding, two of the most intimidating fast bowlers the world has ever seen. That day Gavaskar, the calm and cool builder of an innings, decided to take fate in his own hands and launched a blistering counterattack, the memory of which has stayed in my mind despite the amount of cricket I have watched over the years.

His footwork that day was almost divine. He did not weave and duck at the crease, but played what I still think is the best exhibition of hooking I have watched. As if knowing the intent of the bowlers before they had released the ball, Gavaskar got into perfect position to hook, and raced to his half-century off just 37 balls. He took 57 more to record his 29th century, a feat achieved by only man before him - Donald Bradman.

Gavaskar had reserved his best to match the greatest batsman the history of the game has known.

Pradeep Magazine has been writing on cricket for three decades. He is the author of the book Not Quite Cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shruti on March 24, 2010, 15:18 GMT

    It is bad enough to compare batsmen of different eras ,it is worse to have a go at each other after such comparisons.

  • Vinaykumar on March 24, 2010, 10:46 GMT

    That is true.There are many many batsmen.Few of them are best among all. That's OK.But taking only name and minimizing all others is not correct. Bradman left the stats that he could have performed in any conditions.Even in body line series also he performed exceptionally and won one test match for the team.It is not correct argue that some one has played X conditions,and X conditions are not available for Bradman,so some one is greater than Bradman.It is meaningless argument and illogical.If I argue that if Sachin plays without helmet, he could have failed completely,will it any sensible argument?If need to compare,there should be some base line, like same time, same batting order etc.For current era,we can compare Lara,Sachin,Dravid,Ponting etc,but not by taking complete career,making some common baseline.End of the day,stats never prove exactly.Finally,It is you,by seeing which batsman you get entertained more.I never saw Bradman.I Like Dravid,Sehwag,Lara,Waugh batting among all

  • xeeshan on March 24, 2010, 7:59 GMT

    This is to my late comments on it. Dear Vinaykn, it is very difficult to judge who is actual best in test. Bradman is legend but he played against amateurs bowlers with all cricket in Australia and England, 26 timeless matches, seamless bowling with 80% England. He never played any quality W. Indian fast bowler, no top spinner from India, no quality bowler from Africa and from England only two bowlers with 100 or more wickets in test before world war II. After it, four bowlers who joined 100 or more after his retirement. For leading 50 bowlers in test Don faced one that is Bedser after world war II and for 100 only five. Gavaskar played pure professional bowlers with 18 bowlers 200 or wickets in test. It is still debatable that Don is better or Tendulkar although I think both are equivalent from talent point of view. But from achievement point of view, no doubt Tendulkar has a clear edge. So in my opinion, anyone Lara, Tendulkar, Bradman, Gavaskar or Viv Richard may be the best.

  • Vinaykumar on March 23, 2010, 22:36 GMT

    @Drew2:Dont think too much about certain people who can think only one name as best batsmen.Problem is in India we have to see one name everyday in news papers with some kind of news/article.Market and business is created on that name.They cannot think beyond that.It just humours me when they say-Bradman was a statistical wonder.They can devalue and minimize any name for the sake of that name.That name Sachin Tendulkar Everybody agree Test Cricket is real cricket where it tests your real talent.If you are best you must have excelled in this type of cricket.Out of 271 innings, what are the top 5 best performances?are they really best high ranked ones?Do you have record breaking performances within a match?why you dont have?What are performances when teamis losing and crunch?Do you have any major achievement of a team?Have you got MOM in any important overseas victory other than BD,NZ?why?Howmany times you batted more than at least 500min?Are these not bench marks of greatness?NoForThem

  • Malcolm on March 23, 2010, 15:47 GMT

    Man, what an attack to get his 29th against..Marshall, Holding, Daniel and Roberts. He got his 236* in the same series in Chennai (then Madras) and it was an awesome display. Vengsarkar was the other superb Indian batsman in the series. 13 centuries against West Indians...Man, what a XXXXXX genius he was!

  • Shruti on March 23, 2010, 15:21 GMT

    1983-84 Series against WI in India for SMG was one of a mixed bag.He failed in Kanpur,did well in Delhi,almost overtook Bradman in centuries at Ahmedabad before being distracted by movement at sightscreen,was run of the mill at Bombay and fared poorly in Calcutta but hit back with vengeance at Madras.Runs and Ruins gives a vivid description of his exploits rather SMG gives a vivid description of his exploits in Runs and Ruins.It is a must read for those interested in knowing how India fared immediately after the heady win of Prudential Cup in 1983.Amarnath was a big let down in that home series against WI and Vengsarkar played a gem of an Innings at Wankhede.Richards and Haynes were not very successful while Greenidge,Lloyd,Dujon and Marshall excelled with the bat.However that Series stands out for SMG V/s Marshall encounters.Much later it was SRT V/s Glenn McGrath.

  • D on March 23, 2010, 12:51 GMT

    Supratik,please upload the SMG video on youtube, I have been searching for old SMG innings for years. Its priceless!!

  • xeeshan on March 23, 2010, 10:45 GMT

    Yes this is right that Gavaskar had not scored all 13 centuries against the best attack of W. Indies. He faced Holding in 15 test matches, Marshall in 14, Robert in 11, Holder in 11 and Garner only 4. When he started his career, he did not know about the coming cricket. He played totally 27 test matches against them. Another discussion is that who is actual best in test matches for which I have names of Tendulkar, Lara, Bradman, Gavaskar and Richard. Sobers said Gavaskar is the best. For those who argue that Bradman is the best due to average. I think we should see big picture and then decide. Like Lara runs per innings at home versus England is 71.45 which is more than any other batsman including Don with 71.33 but Lara faced them 1 / 9 it means focusing on single team might improve it too much. May be 100 or more. Overall his 79.8 and Lara 58.49 against England so ratio stands 1.35:1. But he played 22% of his innings and Don 79%. Who is actual best is still unsolved, perhaps Gavaskar

  • Andrew on March 23, 2010, 6:56 GMT

    What is really amusing Gupta.Ankur is your lack of credibility as a judge of who's the best batsman going around. Clearly in your world they are all Indian. Tendulkar isn't even the best batsman in the last 30 years, let alone comparing him to someone completely out of his league like Sir Donald Bradman. I've seen a lot of cricket (with my eyes open) over the last 40 years and I can tell you that the likes of Vivian Richards and Brian Lara are bigger matchwinners than Tendulkar, and there are others. As for Sunil Gavaskar, he might be in the top 10 as an opener. At least he didn't have Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to bolster his career. You might want to visit thoses statistics which show a severe average drop for SD when you discount these teams.

  • Mrityunjaya on March 23, 2010, 6:07 GMT

    I was in standard VII when WI visited India in 1983. India succumbed to havoc of Malcolm Marshall in that series. I do remember Sunil Gavaskar scoring three consecutive boundaries of Malcolm Marshall in Calcutta test just before lunch. India started its inning at 12:15 pm 15 minutes before lunch and Sunny played those gem of shots. I don't remember the details of the test but those shots are inscribed in my mind.

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