Sunil Gavaskar turns 75: The legend who tamed speedsters

The former India captain, the first man to scale ‘Mount 10000’ in Tests, will clock 75 summers and remains connected to the willow-game.

Updated - July 10, 2024 10:43 am IST

Published - July 10, 2024 08:31 am IST - CHENNAI

Sunil Gavaskar, who turned 75 on Wednesday, batted against some great fast bowlers without a helmet.

Sunil Gavaskar, who turned 75 on Wednesday, batted against some great fast bowlers without a helmet. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

For a man, who loved his centuries, Wednesday will usher in a 75. Sunil Gavaskar, one of cricket’s greatest batters, would rather take it one day at a time, just like he did while countering speed merchants and wily spinners, dealing with them one delivery at a time.

The former India captain, the first man to scale ‘Mount 10000’ in Tests, will clock 75 summers and remains connected to the willow-game. This is an umbilical cord he retains, first as a player till he bowed out in 1987, and now as a broadcaster.

Recency bias

Many in the younger generation, who have only seen him as a commentator, may tend to associate him entirely with that role. A reality that even Richie Benaud had to deal with. May be recency bias is at play or in these days of abbreviated words, Instagram reels and two-minute noodles, memory is short.

Test opener Sunil Gavaskar came out of retirement to appear in the ‘Venkat’ benefit match at Chepauk, while the West Indian skipper Viv Richards donned the ‘keeper’s gloves at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Madras on January 27, 1988.

Test opener Sunil Gavaskar came out of retirement to appear in the ‘Venkat’ benefit match at Chepauk, while the West Indian skipper Viv Richards donned the ‘keeper’s gloves at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Madras on January 27, 1988. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

But for those who have seen him bat, Gavaskar was about eternity at the crease. In this era of flash-and-dash right from the openers through the middle-order to the finishers, he was that old-fashioned fixed deposit in a reputed bank.

Money was safe and hope was forever. When he batted with fellow openers like the late Chetan Chauhan, Anshuman Gaekwad or K. Srikkanth, and middle-order stalwarts like G.R. Viswanath, Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohinder Amarnath, India knew it had a chance, especially with all-rounder Kapil Dev stepping in too.

S.L. Khurana, Governor of Tamil Nadu greets Sunil Gavaskar on the eve of 100th cricket Test match as Kapil Dev looks on.

S.L. Khurana, Governor of Tamil Nadu greets Sunil Gavaskar on the eve of 100th cricket Test match as Kapil Dev looks on. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

A straight bat and a steely resolve was second nature to Gavaskar. One of the few along with the great Viv Richards to bat without a helmet, the opener did experiment with a skull-cap briefly towards the twilight of his career. However, the recurrent image about him is the floppy hat and a bat seemingly broad enough to guard a fortress!

The numbers were staggering at the time when he retired. 10,122 Test runs and 34 hundreds. A yield of 3092 in ODIs and a lone ton. And an overall First Class accumulation of 25,834. The Test statistic places Gavaskar in the 13th spot while fellow Mumbaikar Sachin Tendulkar occupies the throne.

When the mood took over, Gavaskar could take apart the most dangerous attacks. He did it once in Delhi to equal the then world record of 29 Test centuries held by Sir Don Bradman.

File picture of Sunil Gavaskar during the Sportstar Aces Award 2024 held in Mumbai

File picture of Sunil Gavaskar during the Sportstar Aces Award 2024 held in Mumbai | Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

This was 1983 and he was hooking Malcolm Marshall and when he got his ton, the star had no clue until non-striker Vengsarkar said: “Bleddy hell, you did it.”

Fountain of anecdotes

Now busy as a commentator, Gavaskar is often the last word on batsmanship. Off the field, he is a fountain of anecdotes, has an impish sense of humour, does a lot for charity, especially for ageing sportspersons, and tends to get reverential while talking about Prakash Padukone because badminton is a favourite sport. Happy birthday Master, and may the years ahead be filled with more cricketing magic.

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