SK Flashback: Sunil Gavaskar registers the first of his 34 Test tons
The 70s and 80s in world cricket belonged to the West Indies when it was one-way traffic for the Caribbean boys.
Indian cricket was hardly a dominant force back then and were up against it to pull off something extraordinary on their Caribbean tour of 1971. They defeated the Windies at Port of Spain by seven wickets and took a vital 1-0 lead in the series.
However, in the third Test at Georgetown, a young Indian batsman made it into the century’s club, Sunil Gavaskar. The Indian legend who went on to score 34 tons in the game’s most demanding format, scored his first ton at Georgetown.
Tough reply by India after a good show by the Caribbean batsmen
After showing their mettle in the first two Tests, India was all set for another impressive show. West Indies won the toss and elected to bat first. The Windies got off to a handsome start, helped by a couple of decent stands, first between Roy Fredericks and Jo Carew, followed by Fredericks and Rohan Kanhai.
Clive Lloyd came to the party with an astute 60 runs, which was succeeded by a brilliant knock of 80 runs by Desmond Lewis that lifted the West Indies to 363 in their first innings. India’s task was cut out against a hostile bowling attack.
Sunil Gavaskar and Ashok Mankad started proceedings for the Indians as they compiled together an opening partnership of 72 runs. Gavaskar, playing his second Test, was unflustered by the alien conditions and the West Indies bowling attack.
Gavaskar held fort at the crease for four hours and twenty-five minutes, which gave a glimpse of the temperament he had in his armory. In the knock, he got four reprieves as Lady Luck smiled on him and he made the Caribbean bowlers pay with his maiden Test ton.
His third wicket stand of 112 with Gundappa Vishwanath set the tone for India to overhaul West Indies’ first innings total, which they did by 13 runs. Vishwanath, having missed the first two Tests due to injury, also came good for India as he piled on a half century.
Nonetheless, the stand was broken by the exemplary Sir Garfield Sobers when Gavaskar fell prey to the West Indies skipper. Sobers went on to become West Indies’ pick of the bowlers with three wickets in 43 overs that included 15 maidens.
West Indies dominate after India’s collapse
The second new ball inflicted a mini-collapse as India slumped from 228/2 to 278/6, losing four wickets for 50 runs. Eknath Solkar’s run out at the start of play on Day 4 didn’t help the cause for India either as they stuttered a little in their innings. However, Dilip Sardesai and Syed Abid Ali resurrected the innings with a 61-run stand, letting India into the contest.
After India’s resolute batting show, the onus was on the West Indies’ batsman to start all over again and post a respectable lead to put the pressure back on India. The start wasn’t an auspicious one as Solkar drew first blood for India, by trapping Fredericks plumb in front.
Carew and Carlie Davies, along with a half-century stand, pulled things back for the Caribbean as they ended day four on 64/1. The good work was taken over to Day five as yet another century-run stand was raised between a West Indies batting pair.
Bishen Singh Bedi, eventually, broke the stand as Carew was sent back at the brink of a half-century. Clive Lloyd perished soon after as he became Bedi’s second victim. That was the last piece of joy tasted by the Indians in West Indies’ second innings as no further Caribbean wicket went down after the third wicket.
Charlie Davies went to score 105 runs while the calibre of Gary Sobers got the Indian bowling by the scruff of the neck. After plying his trade with the ball, Sobers displayed why he is deemed to be a great of his generation.
Draw was always on the cards
On a pitch tailored for batting, Sobers made hay and hit his first Test century of the series. The stand between Sobers and Davies remained unbeaten as they stitched together 170 runs. With a session of play remaining in the Test, West Indies declared at tea with their score at 307/3 and with a lead of 294 runs.
It was pretty evident that even scoring at the rate of knots wouldn’t help India accomplish 295 runs in 30 overs. India ended the match on a high with half-centuries from both their openers, Vinoo Mankad and Sunil Gavaskar.
The fact that India competed against might of West Indies with both bat and ball, scripted a new era for Indian cricket. Sunil Gavaskar had a grand start to what panned out to be an incredible career.
India went on draw the remaining matches at Bridgetown and Port of Spain in the series and register a historic triumph over a rampaging West Indies team.