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Sunil Gavaskar: The original ‘Little Master’

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AFP PHOTO/STR Photo credit STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

Indian Cricket has been home to some of the best batsmen of all time. On the top of the list for his generation was Sunil ‘little master’ Gavaskar. He was the most complete test batsman the world has ever seen and if we look at his record against the West Indies, it is safe to say that he was the most brave and gutsy too. For those who have seen the West Indies team of the 1970s play, would understand what I mean.

Sunil Gavaskar was the most serious patron of the Mumbai school of batting also known as the ‘Khadoos Batting’ in the ranji circuit. Mumbai have produced the best of batsmen for India, the main reason being the infrastructure for sports, especially cricket, since the pre-independence days. The club cricket in Mumbai was pretty popular and had a very famous approach towards batting. The coaches used to make batsmen play ‘selfishly’ for long periods of time to get maximum runs for themselves. This may sound a bit negative but it actually was not. The approach made batsmen put a high price on their wicket and score a lot of runs for themselves as well as the team. This was known as the Mumbai School of Batting or more appropriately the ‘Khadoos Style of Batting’ and Sunil Gavaskar, was probably the best exponent of the same.

His penchant for batting for long periods of time and scoring big centuries put him into the Indian team for their tour of West Indies in 1971. The result, a record of mammoth 774 runs in the series. This performance made him the national hero overnight and a batsman for the world to watch out for. This was the time when the pitches used to be uncovered, inconsistent, mostly grassy and the batsmen did not have the helmets to play with. The mention of helmet is necessary because the West Indies had a battery of quick bowlers, all of them ferociously quick and aggressive and their team was invincible during that phase. So if a batsman was consistently scoring big against them, it had to be someone with some serious talent.

Sunil Gavaskar was the original record breaking machine before the arrival of Sachin Tendulkar.

During the period Gavaskar played, he held the following records :

– The first cricketer to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket.

– Highest no. of centuries – 34

– The only cricketer to hit a century in each innings of a Test thrice.

– Only cricketer to score 1000 runs or more in a calendar year on 4 occasions.

– Only cricketer to score 5000 runs or more abroad.

– The first cricketer to make fastest 1000 runs – in 78 days and 6 Tests.

– The only cricketer to top score in both the completed innings of a Test on five occasions.

– The only cricketer to top score in 58 completed innings.

– The only cricketer to have the highest match aggregate on 36 occasions.

– Highest runs (774) by a debutant in a bilateral series.

– Highest runs by any player in a series (774) against West Indies.

– Maximum no. of runs & centuries scored by a player against West Indies – 2749 runs & 13 centuries.

– Only cricketer to score 4 consecutive centuries at 2 venues – Port of Spain & Wankhede.

– The only cricketer to hit hundreds in 3 consecutive innings twice.

– Only cricketer with 58 century partnership with 18 different players.

Sunil Gavaskar was the epitome of test batsman-ship with a water tight technique and elegant strokes including his world famous straight drive. He played for India for 16 years and during that period he was the best batsman in the world, as far as test cricket was concerned.

He is too big a batsman to be viewed in terms of mere statistics. The joy that he brought to the Indian fans when he used to pummel the unplayable West Indies fast bowlers was unmatchable. Apart from the happiness that he spread across Indian cricket fans he also made sure that the joy would last forever by inspiring the young kids to take up cricket. He was the poster boy of India and millions of youngsters wanted to be like him. One such youngster was none other than Sachin Tendulkar who idolized Gavaskar like so many other kids around. This was probably one of the major contributions of the little master to the Indian Cricket.

Not many would know that Sunil Gavaskar, when just a few days old was exchanged with another baby born to a fisherman family, at the same hospital but a sharp eyed relative realized it all and helped find the real Sunil Gavaskar back. Had it not happened, Sunil would have been catching fish in all likelihood. But as they say, Cricket was destined to have Sunil Gavaskar as its hero. To sum it up it is safe to say that Sunil Gavaskar was the real ‘Khadoos’ of cricket.