Published on April 26, 2014
5 Reasons Why Gavaskar Remains The Greatest Indian Test Batsman Ever Sudhir Bisht firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunny Days are here again! • One of the most respected cricketers of all generations, Sunil Gavaskar, has been named by the Supreme Court to be the man who would be at the helm of affairs of BCCI, till the IPL-7 is concluded. • For the young generation that has watched the great test batsmen of the modern era, I would like to say that Sunil Gavaskar was truly the First Batting Star of India. • There was a time, during the eighties, when anything that Gavaskar did, would go on to become a world record. However Sunil Gavaskar’s glory isn’t just in the records that he still holds or the ones that he held until they were surpassed by the players of the next generation. • Here are five reasons why Sunil Gavaskar will remain one of the Best Test batsman of Indian cricket. He is there, right up at the top with Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. • And if I may be allowed to indulge in a bit of plain speaking, Gavaskar is the Best Test batsman India has ever produced
Let’s look at 12 Top scorers in Test Cricket for India Sr. No Name Batting Position Test Matches played Active Test Playing Years Test Runs scored No. of Test Hundred Test average Debut Yr- Last Year 1 Sunil Gavaskar Opener 125 16 10,122 34 51.12 1971- 1987 2 Dilip Vengsarkar No 3 116 15 6,868 17 42.13 1976- 1991 3 Gundappa Viswanath No 4 91 14 6,080 14 41.93 1969- 1983 4 Mohinder Amarnath No3, 4 & 6 69 19 4,378 11 42.5 1969- 1988 5 Mohammad Azharuddin No 5 & 6 99 15 6,215 22 45.03 1985- 2000 6 Navjot Sidhu Opener 51 16 3,202 9 42.13 1983- 1999 7 Sachin Tendulkar No 4 200 24 15,921 51 53.78 1989- 2013 8 Rahul Dravid No 3 164 16 13,288 36 52.31 1996- 2012 9 V V S Laxman No 5, 6 & Opener 134 16 8,781 17 45.37 1996- 2012 10 Sourav Ganguly No 5, 6, 4, 3 113 12 7,212 16 42.17 1996- 2008 11 Virender Sehwag Opener 104 12 8,586 23 49.34 2001- 2013 12 Gautam Gambhir Opener 54 8 4,021 9 44.19 2004- 2012
The 12 top Indian Test batsmen from 1970 onwards • The table in the earlier slide is a list of the top 12 test batsmen of India. • 4 out of 12 belong to the Gavsakar era. They are; the great artiste Gundappa Viswanath, the gritty Mohinder Amarnath, the flamboyant Dilip Vengsarkar and Sunny Gavaskar himself. • 6 belong to the Tendulkar era. The ‘wall’ called Rahul Dravid, the ‘Very, Very Special’ Laxman, the elegant southpaw Ganguly, the ‘Nawab of Najafgarh’ Virender Sehwag, the gritty Gautam Gambhir and the ultimate batsman of all times, Sachin Tendulkar himself. • The remaining 2 have straddled along the two eras. They are the fearless Navjot Siddhu and the man with the silken touch called Mohammad Azharuddin
1. Gavaskar always carried the burden of his entire team on his shoulders • A look at the table above would reveal that, except for Vishwanath (till 1983) and Vengsarkar from 1976- 1987, there weren’t many batsmen who came even close to matching Sunil Gavaskar’s consistency as far as run-making was concerned. Mohinder Amarnath was another gutsy performer who played a few good series but apart from that there weren’t many players whom Indian team could rely upon as far as batting was concerned. • Contrast this with the Tendulkar era when players like the great Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly played a great role in complimenting each other. In fact the period from 2000 to 2012 was the golder period for Indian batting. • The famous Four (Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman) were in sublime form and were joined by the most formidable pair of opening partners India ever produced. The ‘Jodi’ of Sehwag and Gambhir had started giving the best opening partnerships for India. • In contrast to the great batsmen of Tendulkar era, the Gavaskar era was so much dependent upon the great Sunil Gavaskar to extricate Indian batting from habitual collapse.
2. Gavaskar always opened the innings for India • It is one thing to score runs when the shine has gone off the new ball and quite another to score when the cherry is still glistening red in colour. • Sunil Gavaskar was always the brave heart who had to open the batting for India, innings after innings; series after series for almost 16 years. • History is replete with great players who were asked to open for India but they soon retreated to the safe cocoon of middle order batting. • Even one of the most loyal servants of Indian cricket, VV S Laxman tried his luck at the opening slot but after opening for India for 25 innings, he had to go back to the lower order. Laxman could average only about 26 runs as on opening batsman, though he did score a brilliant 167 against Australia at Sydney in 2000. • Another thing to remember here that someone like Sehwag, who would go down as one of the best opening batsmen the game has ever produced, had the good fortune of having Gambhir as a reliable partner. Gavaskar never had the luxury of opening with a partner who was half as good as Gambhir. The romantic aura of Kris Srikkanth and the dour image of Chetan Chauhan notwithstanding. • Sehwag was always free to play his natural attacking game as he knew that the team had players like Dravid, Sachin, Laxman, Ganguly following him in the lower order. Contrast this with Gavaskar who always played with a cautious realization that his failure could lead to unmanageable pressure on Gundappa Viswanath or Vengsarkar.
3. Gavaskar never played with the protection of a helmet • How many modern batsmen can face the pace quartet of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft, without wearing a helmet? Gavaskar did just that. • And he did it with aplomb. Wearing just a homemade skull-cap, Sunny Gavaskar was never ever terrified by the ferocity of attack. It was such an extraordinary sight to see a diminutive batsman, cut, slice and straight-drive the six foot tall giants into complete submission. One should keep in mind that all these bowlers could bowl at more than 95 miles an hour. • It is not just the pace of the West Indies greats that Sunny Gavaskar blunted with his bat. He also negotiated the vicious spin bowling of Abdul Qadir and John Emburey with equal ease. • I know that the batsmen of Tendulkar era can’t be blamed for batting with their helmets on their heads. This was a new development of the game and even Gavaskar, if he were to be born in the Tendulkar era, would have preferred wearing a helmet. But this logic can’t take the credit away from the intrepid Sunil Gavaskar who faced the wrath of Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee and Dennis Lillee without the basic safety equipment. • As someone pointed out that the modern day batsmen have no fear of fast bowling. They wear helmet, much better arm guards, robust thigh guard and often times a chest protector. Their gloves and pads are so much more padded that they look virtually impregnable. • Did Sunil Gavaskar or Vishwanath enjoy any such luxury? No. They simply relied upon their God gifted hand-eye coordination.
4. Gavaskar carried the added burden of being the Captain • Sunil Gavaskar captained India in 47 test matches and had a success record of 9 wins against 8 losses. While Gavaskar was a modest success as a Captain and it is often said that under him the Indian team played to draw and not to win, it is also a fact that he was always under the double burden of being the Captain of the team as well as its Best and most dependable batsman. • Mohammad Azaharuddin or Sourav Ganguly, both Captains of Indian test sides didn’t have to carry this extra burden. • The weight of captaining the team as well as being its Best batsman weighed so heavily on the shoulders of the great Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid that they preferred to relinquish the burden of captaincy to concentrate on their batting Gavaskar’s record as a Captain Tests as Captain Wins as Captain Losses as Captain Sunil Gavaskar 47 09 08 Mohammad Azharuddin 47 14 14 Sourav Ganguly 49 21 13
5. There was no restrictions on number of bouncers per over during Sunil’s days • The life of Indian batsmen became so much easy after 1991 when the bouncer rule came into play. No bowler is allowed to bowl more than two short-pitch deliveries. The batsmen like Sunil Gavaskar had no such rule to save them from the merciless pace bowlers who hounded them with any number of bouncers. • And because the batsmen today wear helmets, they even don’t mind if the short-pitched stuff slides past their helmets.
So Isn’t Gavaskar the Best Test Batsman India has ever produced? • The answer is both Yes, but some critics can still say No. • ‘Yes’ because of the five reasons listed above and ‘No’ because of the fact that Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar didn’t invent the helmet; they didn’t promulgate the ‘No-more-than-2- bouncer-per-over’ rule and they were not responsible for being born in an era when they played far more freely than Gavaskar could play. • And most importantly, both Dravid and Sachin have better test average than Sunil Gavaskar has. • However their slightly better average, 53.78 for Sachin and 52.31 for Dravid, is neutralized by the fact that Gavaskar opened the innings for India. And neither of them is better than Gavaskar as I believe that a score of 75 by an opener is as good as a century by the middle order batsman. • A game of cricket is much beyond the numbers. Statistics can never explain why the 97 by Gundappa Viswanath against the West Indies at Chennai 1974–75 is considered by many purists as the Best innings ever played by any Indian batsman. • Viswanath scored 97 not out, out of a total of 190, against a bowling attack that included Andy Roberts. The Wisden 100 has ranked it as one of the best innings of all time. • And just as a great player like Pele can’t be compared to the later generation’s Maradona, the batsmen of different eras can simply not be compared.
Wishing Gavaskar the very Best in his role as Interim President of BCCI • Sunil Gavaskar seamlessly slipped into the role of commentator, almost immediately after he retired from Test cricket. He has always been a reluctant administrator. He has never hankered after any administrative position. He has never ever even sought the job of India’s Coach, even though it is an established fact that someone like Sunny Gavaskar, with a mind as astute as his own, would always be a successful coach. He has the credentials and he has the vision. • Here’s wishing Sunil Gavaskar all the very Best in his new role as the Interim President of BCCI. • The Supreme Court of our country has chosen him for the new role. It takes a venerated institution to recognize another revered one. Here’s Three Cheers for the Honourable Supreme Court and the Right Honourable Sunil Gavaskar
Sudhir Bisht is an author and a columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org
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